BEVERLY — North Shore Music Theatre is coming off one of its most successful, all-time family-friendly fun shows, “Mamma Mia.” The audience stood, cheered and screamed their lungs out singing “Waterloo” and “Dancing Queen.” It was a feel-good blast of pop sunshine.
The current musical, “Jekyll & Hyde,” Frank Wildhorn/Leslie Bricusse’s pop-opera take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” couldn’t be more different. It’s an agonizing blast of one man’s descent into evil and darkness. A light evening of theater it is not.
It would be easy for a snarky reviewer like me to compare the two shows to the good and bad sides of NSMT owner/producer Bill Hanney’s thought process. But, that wouldn’t be fair. “Jekyll & Hyde” might not be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey — I’m in the meh! corner — but Hanney deserves praise for bringing it to Beverly. The show has many fans and this production is worth seeing. Even by ABBA fans.
First off, the performances are consistently excellent. Constantine Maroulis, who will forever be known as “‘American Idol’ finalist,” is quite good as both the decent, caring Dr. Henry Jekyll and the abusive murderer Mr. Edward Hyde. Maroulis, who has solid acting chops, has had much success on stage, winning a Tony nomination for “Rock of Ages” and having played these dual roles on Broadway. His singing is strong and assured, tailor-made for this show’s overwrought “Les Mis’”/”Phantom”-like flavor.
Diana DeGarmo, an “American Idol” finalist herself, is equally fine as prostitute Lucy Harris, bringing tenderness to the role of a lost soul who is drawn to both kind-hearted Jekyll and violent psycho Hyde. She sings the hell out of “Someone Like You” and “A New Life,” earning deserved loud ovations. “Bring on the Men,” the most rocking song here, is a hoot and DeGarmo and the ladies deliver the goods.
Tess Primack shines as Emma Carew, Jekyll’s hardheaded “what are you thinking, girl” fiancée, who remains ridiculously patient and committed to the two-timing swine no matter how badly or inhuman he acts. She has a wonderful voice, and she and DeGarmo are wonderful together singing “In His Eyes.”
Tom Galantich (John Utterson), Jim Brochu (Sir Danvers Carew), and Michael Padgett (Spider) are superb, as are the ensemble members.
Robert Cuccioli, Broadway’s award-winning original Dr. Jekyll, directs and keeps the action moving relatively briskly. I doubt if any director/actor combo could make the climactic “Confrontation” fight to the death between Jekyll and Hyde succeed; it comes off as parody. When Maroulis, who is alone on stage fighting his demons, has his hair covering his face he’s evil Hyde; when it’s back normal, he’s the good Dr. J. I kept flashing back to Steve Martin’s slapstick scene in the film “All of Me.”
And I know that “blood” is hard to clean up, and it’d never come out of that pretty white camisole Lucy wears, even with OxiClean, but so many murders and not even one smidge of blood? C’mon: I’m not calling for rivers of it like in Mel Brooks’ “Dracula: Dead and Loving It,” maybe just one squirt like in “Sweeney Todd.”
Enough snarkiness. Is it worth seeing? I’m of two minds. This is an excellent, professional production with a strong, hardworking cast. But the show itself is so-so. Hmmm. Let’s consult the ABBA goddesses: “Take a Chance on Me.” OK. Do I think North Shore Music Theatre supporters will be glad they bought a ticket? “I Do. I Do. I Do. I Do.”