'Jekyll & Hyde' review: Schlock opera
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The theater season isn't even officially over for another frantic week. But Broadway already has its tourist-ready 19th century potboiler for summer visitors who have seen "The Phantom of the Opera" so often they've stopped gasping at the falling chandelier.
We speak of "Jekyll & Hyde," which ran almost four years on Broadway in the late '90s and was the first and most popular of the six critically unloved musicals by the dauntingly prolific, vanilla-pop composer Frank Wildhorn.
Like many of his shows, this is based on a junk-food demiclassic and propelled by tear-your-guts-out, face-the-audience-and-belt anthems that cumulatively cancel one another out but, individually, have been favorites of Olympic skaters, presidential inaugurations and other exalted tests of the human spirit.
The revival has been restaged and rechoreographed with imaginative low-budget economy by Jeff Calhoun, who also did both the hit "Newsies" and "Bonnie & Clyde," Wildhorn's most mature (but still short-lived) show. Tobin Ost's functionally minimal sets -- mostly five hanging panels -- have a cutdown theatricality that must be useful on the road. His costumes for the fancy maids reveal at least as much cleavage as Jekyll/Hyde sees at his late-night visits to the brothel.
Constantine Maroulis, who got a Tony nomination for "Rock of Ages" but may forever be identified as an "American Idol" finalist, has a confident, nerdy-scholar presence and a big, sometimes nasal croon as the scientist obsessed with trying to cure his father's madness through chemistry. When Dr. Jekyll infuses himself from colored test tubes to the heart-thumping inspirational song "This Is the Moment," you can tell he's the evil Mr. Hyde because he takes the rubber band off his ponytail.
Where the original Lucy (and Wildhorn's ex wife) Linda Eder impressed with her powerhouse lungs and phrasing that evoked Barbra Streisand, Deborah Cox plays the fallen woman with comparable heft, a surprisingly chaste sexuality and, especially in the second-act "A New Life," more of a Whitney Houston gleam.
The score is mostly fourth-generation "Les Miserables" schlock opera. Leslie Bricusse's lyrics are shameless with such klutzy greeting-card rhymes as "I must put aside / the fear I have inside / there is no place to hide." Teal Wicks, as Jekyll's noble fiancee, admirably refuses to let her warm voice get lost among the screamers, though it's hard to tell with all that amplification.
WHAT "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical"
WHERE Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway
INFO $60-$142; 877-250-2929; jekyllandhydemusical.com
BOTTOM LINE Summer fare comes early.