Review: Larger-than-life performances compensate for weak material in 'Jekyll & Hyde'

Stage review • Dark Horse's production a perfect psychological fit for the scary season.
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Park City • The poet Alexander Pope tells us, "A little learning is a dangerous thing." We need to investigate a subject thoroughly so we understand how it works. But the opposite implication is equally true: Knowing a little about something whets our curiosity to learn more, and that insatiable appetite evolves into obsession and takes over our lives.

Henry Jekyll, the central character of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel and Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn's musical version, "Jekyll & Hyde," becomes enmeshed in this Faustian dilemma. Dark Horse Company Theatre is giving the show a compelling production at Park City's Egyptian Theatre. Strong performances and taut direction inject depth into this two-dimensional, melodramatic material. Leads Daniel Simons and Ginger Bess (and married company co-founders) couldn't have found better roles to showcase their singing and acting abilities.

Like many people, Jekyll's obsession has admirable origins: He's fascinated by the duality in human nature — that pervasive struggle between good and bad impulses — and thinks if he can penetrate its secrets, he can eradicate evil and its destructive consequences. But even his opening song, "I Need to Know," reveals his overwhelming thirst for knowledge at any cost — and the power and control it brings — that eventually unleashes the malevolent Edward Hyde and sends him into the world to stamp out hypocrisy. Jekyll has an underlying arrogance, a desire "to play God," that is his ultimate undoing.

Simons is in total command of the character from the first moments, transitioning deftly from the impassioned Jekyll to the diabolical Hyde and back. His Jekyll becomes more distracted and his Hyde increasingly frenzied as the suspense builds.

As Lucy, the prostitute drawn to both Jekyll and Hyde, Ginger Bess demonstrates incredible range. She can be brassy and sexy in songs like "Bring on the Men" and plaintive and sweet the next minute in "No One Knows Who I Am." She's attracted to Jekyll's kind compassion in "Sympathy, Tenderness" but totally mesmerized by Hyde's sexual intensity in "It's a Dangerous Game," which also underlines humanity's perpetual fascination with evil.

Michelle Blake is also strong as Jekyll's devoted fiancée Emma. Her duet with Lucy, "In His Eyes," is one of the show's loveliest moments and poignantly captures love's eternal enigma: we love not just another person but who we become with that person.

In the supporting cast, standouts include actors DRU as Jekyll's supportive friend Utterson, Jim Dale as Emma's concerned father, Craig Williams as the self-righteous, hypocritical Stride, and especially Elise Groves as the feisty, outspoken Nellie.

Christopher Glade's focused direction consistently builds tension, often positioning actors downstage for maximum effect. Kevin Dudley's stark set with its dark buildings, bridge, and silhouetted London skyline becomes even more forbidding under Gamyr Worf's moody lighting with its expressive shifts from white to red and green. Katie Miller's period costumes contribute a rich sense of time and class distinctions. Musical director Anne Puzey's orchestrations and often simple piano accompaniment complement the singers, while choreographer Brooke Wilson supplies some spritely dance numbers.

The story of "Jekyll & Hyde" may be thin in spots, and many of its songs sound alike, but one thing is clear: Dark Horse Company Theatre has emerged, and they are a force to be reckoned with. —

'Jekyll & Hyde'

Larger-than-life performances in Dark Horse Company Theatre's production are a perfect fit for the Halloween season.

When • Reviewed on Thursday, Oct. 18; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. through Oct. 28.

Where • Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City

Tickets • $25 to $45; must be 12 or older; at 435-649-9371 or for tickets and information.

Running time • Two and a half hours (including an intermission)