Michael Knight rocks... who new?
It's a disaster, right? Really bad, cheesy and overacted, right? Not really. Surprisingly Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical was pretty damned good. I didn't want to like it either... I was all ready to make Devon Miles and K.I.T.T. jokes... and I'm a little upset I didn't get to use them! First off what I watched was a full length television version of the Musical on HBO. In that this was not a movie, but an actual filmed stage play complete with live audience, one has to allow for a certain amount of over expression (watch the Tony awards... everyone on stage does it... I did). I was pleased to see so rich a stage show based on any subject. It was great to see this one seemed to care about the whole package.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical follows the original story pretty closely. Doctor Henry Jekyll (Hasselhoff) is a scientist attempting to separate the dual (good and evil) natures of man to cure humanity of its darker side, and lacking a guinea pig, he tests his drugs on himself, creating a dastardly alter-ego named Edward Hyde! It can easily be said that Hasselhoff plays a dual role here as each character is as different as night and day. Primarily the change isn't cosmetic (aside from Hyde having hair in his face, and Jekyll having a well kept Pony Tail). The Physical change is suggested (much like the physical deformities of John Merrick in 1982's The Elephant Man), but it's Hasselhoff's physical change, from his voice to his mannerisms, to his very face... and the reactions of the rest of the cast further this along.
The novel illustrates the joys that Hyde has as a murderer as well as the joys Jekyll had as a doctor by day. The moral ambiguity of Jekyll's knowing he was murdering at night are all solved. Jekyll becomes a tortured, guilty man as he witnesses his other self's escalating evils. And they do escalate indeed! At first Hyde seems almost like a Vigilante, murdering only those that were pretty rotten to begin with. But as time goes on, the violence becomes more graphic and the murders more horrific to the point that a major character is murdered graphically and sadly. Interestingly it's as interesting to see the reactions of Jekyll's friends and family as he deteriorates as it is to see Jekyll's ordeal with Hyde. In one scene Jekyll and Hyde are vying for control within the good doctor's mind. The scene is tremendous, as no camera cuts separate when Hasselhoff is one character versus another. On a dime he changes, and the change is convincing!
There is an interesting method of set changes here. The sets are mechanically as well as Physically moved. In some cases a character (who might ordinarily run out of stage space) has the set change completely around her to give the illusion of a change of time or spatial progress when in actuality the character hasn't moved. The sets and set change choreography is also quite good. When a character can be on an empty stage with his back turned, and a chair suddenly appears there, and without looking he or she sits... that's good timing there.
Likewise, the book was accurate to the source as much as could be. The changes there weren't really Gregory Benford changes, but more in line with the transition from horror novel to musical. The music itself was full and rich... Maybe a little too much in homage to Andrew Lloyd Webber, but what on Broadway isn't these days (unless its a revival). The music was able to range from the violent and crashing themes surrounding Edward Hyde, to the sensuous rhythms of Lucy's dances, to the peace surrounding Jekyll when in the arms of Emma! Truly a very good score, with very good voices being backed up!
I've never heard Hasselhoff sing before (intentionally avoiding it), but I was interested to hear that he had a pretty full operatic voice. No, he's not Michael Crawford, but he's pretty good. I'm not saying that he should be on the short list to play Hamlet in the next adaptation, but he's better than I have ever seen him here! I hear that Clown Sebastian Bach from that band Skid Row replaced him when he moved on! I can't imagine that was an improvement! Coleen Sexton is both incredibly beautiful and amazingly good as Lucy Sexton who is intertwined with both Jekyll and Hyde. She portrays sexuality, innocence, fear and desperation with changes as quick as those of Jekyll and Hyde themselves. Her look is perfect for the role... one simultaneously lusts for her, and wants to protect her. George Merritt is wonderful as John Utterson, Jekyll's best friend and lawyer. The man conveys volumes with just a look. He's excellent to watch, but he doesn't seem to be in anything else I've seen. Andrea Rivette is fine as the Mrs.-Jekyll-to-be Emma Carew, though she isn't given many opportunities to stand out, she does well portraying her part. The rest of the cast primarily portrays two roles each (literally). Most of these are so well played that the audience can't tell it's the same actor. Particularly shining in this area is Martin Van Treuren as both Teddy Savage and The Spider. When the credits rolled and I saw he played both parts I nearly jumped!
I can't really picture this particular book and music as a movie. There are just a few things that are live-stage specific, and because of that just wouldn't work as a movie. The subtleties of allowing Hasselhoff to play the change without more than his Coif to signify a physical change would be lost in a movie. Also, some of the more silly lines of dialogue which work so well on stage (because the Audience can laugh with the actors) would elicit mockery in a film. If you come from a stage background, or just love Theatre, you'll go for this. If not... Try it anyway. I wouldn't mind seeing it again! It certainly was a pleasant surprise! After the final curtain call, Hasselhoff makes the hubris-laded statement that he's come a "long way from the beach and the talking car"... I wish I could make fun of that line more than I can... but he really has.
Three and one half Stars for Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical. Now I have to wonder when Dirk Benedict, Dwight Shultz and Mr. T are going to get their big breaks in The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and La Boheme! I'll be first in line!
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