This is the moment for Pellow

The dangers of drink: Nothing wet about Marti Pellow as he finds himself as Edward Hyde, your friendly, neighbourhood, homicidal maniac. Pictures: Simon Fowler

Jekyll and Hyde – the musical

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

LOVE was certainly all around the Hippodrome as Marti Pellow took to the stage as Dr Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde and I suspect the standing ovation at the end owed as much to his membership of Wet Wet Wet as his performance.

Not that the pop icon, jazz singer, crooner turned musical theatre star does not do an admirable job in his portrayal of the dual roles.

He apparently tailored the score to suit his softer voice and it showed with every song sounding as if it was written just for him. His transformation from the good doctor to the evil Hyde was quite remarkable. We had none of the B-movie horror histrionics with Jekyll clutching his throat and collapsing behind his workbench to reappear moments later – depending upon the speed of the dresser – with dishevelled wig, green eyes and false teeth. Instead Pellow created his own monster.

A look in a mirror, a dishevelling of the hair a subtle change of posture and malice in the voice and evil was created before your very eyes although in the first act Mr Hyde's diction was not all it could have been. Thankfully that was much improved after the half time oranges.

If there was a fault it was that the audience warmed more to the evil Hyde who had a bit of life and verve about him and even a couple of funny lines instead of our hero Jekyll who was as much fun as a bag of washing.

He never managed to show any warmth, passion or, considering that was the reason why was sinking the funny pina coladas, much in the way of compassion for his fellow man. It was all dull, intense angst.

It helped to distinguish the two characters I suppose but I suspect the audience liking the homicidal nutter more than the dullard doctor was not part of the plan. Lighten up Doc. 

Lucy, Sabrina Carter, leads the ladies of pleasure in the Spider's Web drinking estalishment

The musical is based, loosely, on Robert Louis Stevenson's novella and sees our good doctor wanting to experiment on a volunteer to first discover the source of good and evil then control the evil bit to help the unfortunates in asylums and hospitals.

Denied a volunteer by the hospital board he sacrifices himself for mankind. One sip of his potion and he becomes a raving loony, and have we not all had experience of drinks like that?

Supporting Pellow beautifully are the two female leads Sarah Earnshaw as Jekyll's fiancé Emma and Sabrina Carter as the tart with a heart Lucy. Their duet In His Eyes was one of the highlights of the show along with the duet between Emma and Jekyll Take Me As I Am, Lucy also gave us the beautiful Someone Like You.

Strangely the only hit song the show managed to produce in what is a melodic and classy score by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn is Jekyll's This is the Moment which Pellow delivered magnificently. The lad really has got a voice on him.

It is a pity the music is not better known as it really does have some cracking songs worthy of being standards. Emma's Once Upon A Dream for example and Lucy's A New Life are also lovely songs which deserve more than an airing every five or six years in a touring production. I suspect the lack of West End exposure has done a great deal to leave some great songs out in the cold.

Hyde and Lucy in their dangerous - at least if you are Lucy - affair

The chorus of ladies of the night from the Spider's Web a pub where entertainment was more, should we say, basic in the days long before Sky Sports was introduced also had their moments with Lucy leading them in Bring on the Men and Nellie (Amira Matthews) leading them in The Girls of the Night.

Mention should also be made of excellent sets by Mark Bailey which slide, rise and fall to make scene changes seamless without any break  - although, a small point, but Lucy's bed must have had one of the world's first elasticated fitted sheets way back in 1886.

The video projection on the glass wall in Jekyll's laboratory ( see below) as the good doc battled for control of his mind with Hyde in the duet Confrontation was impressive and had that futuristic look of the horror films of the 30s and 40s about it.

The lighting was also excellent to enhance the gothic horror of the piece with an ever changing brooding behind the London skyline and the costumes all added to the feel of Victorian London.

The show, which was a huge hit on Broadway in the 90s is not perfect.

 It is still looking for a London home and its chances of an appearance in the West End would be helped considerably by some pruning to a more manageable length which would also help inject a little pace into what at times is pedestrian gothic.

That being said though shortening and a light touch on the accelerator would improve an already good production. The 18 strong cast put in a full shift, the singing and musical numbers were all excellent and it was an enjoyable evening. Neither Wet Wet Wet fans nor musical theatregoers will be disappointed.

Roger Clarke

But apart from the drink what did you think of it Doc?

****

ACTORS frequently play characters total different from themselves, but former pop star Marti Pellow finds himself facing a double challenge in this horror story musical.

He has to switch from the good Dr Jekyll to the evil Mr Edward Hyde, a murderous fiend with revenge on his mind, and he achieves it with enough distinction to earn cheers from the first night audience.

Based on the short novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the plot explores how the doctor begins to experiment on himself when the board of St Judes Hospital reject his plea for backing to investigate whether good can be separated from bad in man.

But the potion he starts taking transforms him into a vicious killer at a time when he is preparing for marriage to his loving fiancee, Emma.

In the switch to Hyde, without the advantage of movie make-up, Pellow has to rely on a nasty expression, a few greasy strands of hair covering part of his face, and a top hat. Not always too scary, and there were a few giggles in the audience at one of his murders.

Big moments are plenty, however, with Pellow singing This is the Moment with great passion, the duet, In His Eyes, featuring Emma (Sarah Earnshaw) and pretty prostitute Lucy (Sabrina Carter). Sabrina gives a stunning performance, too, with the touching song, A New Life, as she prepares to escape the monster who is attracted to her.

One of the best props is a full-sized mirror - Phantom style - which can reflect Dr Jekyll one moment then show the vicious Hyde peering out in that top hat.

Directed by Martin Connor with Tom de Keyser's musical direction and keyboard skills, this story of good and evil to music runs to Saturday night 09.04.11

Paul Marston 

Home  Hippodrome Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre