The new Broadway revival of the musical Jekyll & Hyde feels more like an exhumation of sorts. Some may remember the first time it was here in the late ’90s: Despite very little help from critics, it was nominated for four Tony Awards and was kept going for more than three years without turning a profit thanks to the help of a rabid fan base who called themselves Jekkies. Now under the direction of Jeff Calhoun (Newsies), the musical is back to haunt the Marquis Theatre with American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis in the title roles and the tremendous Deborah Cox as the bad girl he desires.
The show, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and music by Frank Wildhorn, begins solemnly, with the hushed voice of Jekyll reflecting on the good and evil sides of man. Perhaps fearful that the audience has already fallen asleep, Calhoun pierces the calm by wheeling out a screaming lunatic in a straitjacket strapped to a wall. This is Dr. Jekyll’s father, whom Jekyll hopes to turn sane with a new formula he’s been working on. Going before the board of governors (who look ready to hit a steampunk convention), he begs for permission to test his potion on his father. They dismiss him as an “un-Christian” mad man, leaving him no choice but to try it on himself.
Straying far from the original Robert Louis Stevenson novella, this reimagining has a love triangle at its heart. Though Jekyll is to be married to the sweet Emma (played by the terrific Teal Wicks), it’s Lucy from the local den of iniquity who really turns up his Bunsen burner. Of the two roles he portrays, Maroulis, who is a decent enough actor, is far more convincing as the uptight, sensitive Jekyll than as the twisted Mr. Hyde. Hyde is supposed to be a hideous fiend, but here he only gets more handsome when Maroulis removes his nice-guy spectacles and releases from a long ponytail his wavy, pampered locks. As he goes about terrorizing his victims, Maroulis can’t tap into the rage required to chill the audience’s bones. Granted, it must be challenging to sing and rough up a lady at the same time, but Maroulis looks positively uncomfortable as he ties up Cox and awkwardly paws at her corset.
The good news here—yes, there is some good news!—is that the leads sing very well. The Grammy-nominated Cox is a scene-stealing powerhouse. In fact, she’s so enjoyable to watch and listen to that you can almost forgive the syrupy lyrics (“Everything worth living for is there in his eyes!”) coming out of her mouth. Maroulis, who was nominated for a Tony for Rock of Ages, attacks the big pop anthems (most memorably “This Is the Moment”) with plenty of heart and gusto. There are also some fun special effects that come into play when Maroulis must duet with himself. But even if you’re into this kind of stadium schlock, there’s no good reason to sit through the whole thing. They’ve made a valiant effort to breathe life into the old bag, but this one should have stayed dead.