I sat down to watch LUTG’s production of Jekyll & Hyde with some trepidation. Having never seen a LUTG show before I was curious and slightly worried, how a student-run theatre group, with presumably a small production team and limited funds, would be able to pull off such an elaborate musical.
Within the first few minutes, I breathed a sigh of relief. The opening scene, where Jekyll visits his father in an insane asylum, serves as an incredibly strong opening. It ends with Jekyll’s father screaming in a fit of madness before being quickly taken away by a nurse, a surprisingly hard-hitting moment that suddenly raised my expectations for the whole production. In the show’s program director Katie Marrin describes Jekyll & Hyde as one of her favourite musicals, and her love for the source material is visible. While nothing quite reached the emotional heights of the first scene, Jekyll & Hyde remained an enjoyable and compelling retelling of a classic musical and one for which Marrin should be immensely proud of making.
The cast is excellent across the board. I’m reluctant to name specific members since I don’t have enough space to give them all the praise they have rightfully earned, but Ollie Hall in the dual role of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde deserves special mention. He switches between the two characters effortlessly, managing to elicit sympathy one minute and terror the next.
Tolia Uwalaka and Evie Kerr as Lucy and Emma, respectively, the tragic figures who both love Jekyll (and are both unaware of his secret), also give strong performances. The scene where they sing In His Eyes, standing on opposite ends of the stage and covered in shadows, is a standout moment. The singing, in general, is one of the show’s highlights, with the performances of Someone Like You, Once Upon A Dream, and the classic This Is The Moment particularly worthy of praise.
My biggest problem with Jekyll & Hyde I noticed almost immediately, and unfortunately persisted throughout the whole show. The music is frequently too loud and often drowns out the actors. The use of microphones somewhat helped to rectify that, but they appeared to be suffering from technical problems during the performance I watched and often turned on and off during dialogue. I was initially going to give that a pass and chalk it up to seeing Jekyll & Hyde on the first night, but it happened with such frequency (and sometimes on important lines regarding the plot) that I had to mention it.
I also found the humour to be a bit hit-and-miss. The jokes themselves are okay and delivered well by the actors, but they did clash with the overall tone, especially when they appear in an otherwise serious scene.
LUTG’S Jekyll & Hyde might not have been the smoothest production, but these creases generally weren’t too distracting. With a strong cast, terrific renditions of classic songs and surprisingly strong productions values (notably the costumes by Elspeth Dale), Jekyll & Hyde was an enjoyable, intense and emotional version of one of the great horror musicals.