Marie Clark Musical Theatre
The Arts Theatre
Until 03 Jun 2017

Review by Fran Edwards

An interesting musical this one – it has a real plot with shades of darkness. Originally from a disturbing Robert Louis Stevenson short story, Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn developed their musical from that, with Leslie Bricusse writing the book and lyrics. The music is memorable and the orchestra did it justice (with the occasional nervous squeak to prove that it’s opening night) and the lead singers were great, spoiled every now and then by uneven sound mixing. Ben Stefanoff has worked the cast and musicians well.

The set was functional, but unoriginal, with great use of the staircase as an entrance, and whilst Jekyll’s lab was dressed much of the rest was too sparse. Jason Groves lighting did much to lift the set and create the moods. The effect of the charmingly different mobile phone announcement was spoiled by a tech failure, which made the opening a damp squib. However, the enthusiastic cast bounced back. The chorus numbers were brightened by Rebekah Stonelake’s lively choreography – relying mostly on movement rather than dance it was clean and crisp.

Director Ben Todd handled his first musical very well; his direction was balanced and kept the pace moving. He chose his cast well and used their strengths. David McGillivray as the lead character, experiencing the darker side of his nature, was excellent. His transformation scene was handled well and he gave us a wonderful rendition of ‘This is the Moment’ – one of his strongest performances and deserving of the standing ovation he received.

His two ladies were magnificent support. Ashley Muldrew as Emma, the fiancée, was sweet, with a strong clear soprano voice. Her duet ‘Take Me as I Am’ with McGillivray was a high point. Sarah Wildy was fantastic as Lucy, showing her vocal strength when she lead the female ensemble in ‘Bring on the Men’, which got great audience reaction. These two ladies combined in a wonderful duet ‘In His Eyes’.

There were other strong characterizations – Brendan White as Utterson, Max Kavanagh as Sir Danvers Carew (Emma’s father), Brooke Washusen as Nellie and Matthew Redmond as sleazy Spider. In fact there were some good characterisations throughout, maintained especially in the chorus number ‘Murder Murder’.

In all the cast gave us a strong performance, slightly tarnished by sloppy tech but enjoyable nonetheless.