Michele Guyton as Lucy sings "A New Life" in Pasadena… (Bud Johnson, Special to…)
Pasadena Theatre Company has found an excellent venue at Abundant Life Church in Glen Burnie for its current production of the Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse musical adaptation of "Jekyll & Hyde" — the tale of good and evil created by Robert Louis Stevenson in his 1886 novella.
PTC president and "Jekyll" executive producer Sharon Steele said Abundant Life Church has partnered with them to present the show in a space that provides multiple staging levels. Assisting Steele is ALC pastor Nate Drye, who serves as producer with his team of church musicians, actors and technicians.
PTC director Christy Stouffer has a talented cast of actors, singers and dancers, who bring full human dimensions to this musical dramatization of Stevenson's classic tale. Stouffer is also helped by a creative production team that fully uses the ALC performance space.
The 1990s brought major rock operas such as "Rent," "Miss Saigon" and "Jekyll & Hyde" to Broadway, the latter producing such major hits as "This is the Moment," "Someone Like You" and "Once Upon a Dream."
"Jekyll & Hyde" is almost an opera, with its story told almost entirely through music, often in recitative, dialogue-heavy songs. At times, the score rises to dramatic operatic heights, as in "His Work and Nothing More," sung by Jekyll; his friend John Utterson; his fiancee, Emma Carew; and her father, Sir Danvers Carew.
While the musical is inspired by Stevenson's work exploring the scientific manipulation of man's opposing natures, it adds a love theme missing from the novella. Dr. Jekyll remains recognizable as an idealistic physician whose devotion to his hospitalized, mentally ill father motivates him to propose performing some psychological experiments. Despite his request being denied by the hospital board, Jekyll proceeds with these dangerous experiments, which results in his alter-ego, Edward Hyde, soon gaining control of him.
Pasadena Theatre Company's production is distinguished by a first-rate cast and a skilled group of musicians directed by Doug Dawson. Choreographer Becki Placella contributes substantially to this production, as does fight choreographer Geoff Thompson.
Tori Walker serves as costume designer. Credit is also due set designers Walt Morries and Tom Rendulie and to set artists Jim and Roxanne Zimmerman for their fine depiction of Victorian London.
Top honors must go to superb actor/singer John Scheeler, who delivers a pwerful performance in the dual title roles. Without benefit of makeup or wigs, Scheeler's mild-mannered Dr. Henry Jekyll becomes the evil, murderous Edward Hyde.
Scheeler underscores his characterization in such songs as Jekyll's intense plea, "Take Me as I Am," as Hyde in his chilling ode "Alive" and, amazingly, in his duet with himself in "Confrontation," where his voice is transformed from Jekyll's pleasingly mellow tones to Hyde's raging and raw-edged sound.
A captivating PTC debut performance is given by Michele Guyton as Lucy, whom Jekyll befriends and Hyde uses. Guyton's Lucy commands attention with her Red Rat Pub chanteuse singing "Bring on the Men," and later she offers a riveting "It's a Dangerous Game" with Scheeler's Hyde, and the memorable "Someone Like You," which is another highlight of the show.
As Jekyll's love, Emma Carew, debuting PTC member Barbara Hartzell invests her character with warmth and surprising independence. She displays a lovely singing voice in "Once upon a Dream," and in her "In His Eyes" duet with Guyton's Lucy, Hartzell's Emma more than holds her own to deliver another memorable musical peak.
Another standout performance is given by E. Lee Nicol, who plays Jekyll's loyal friend and lawyer John Utterson, contributing much to the "His Work and Nothing More" quartet.
The role of Emma's father, Sir Danvers Carew, is well-played by Tom Rendulie, as is Jekyll's rival for Emma's affection, Simon Stride, well played and sung by Timoth David Copney, who also engages in some highly realistic combat with Scheeler's Hyde.
Memorable in supporting roles are Heidi Toll as Lady Beaconsfield and Ed Wintermute as Hyde's butler, Poole.
Together and separately, strong choral work is offered by the Ladies of the Night (who also execute some clever choreography), the Townswomen and the Townsmen who also serve as Sailors and Workmen.
If you go
"Jekyll & Hyde" continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 21 at the Abundant Life Church auditorium, 7305 Furnace Branch Road in Glen Burnie. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students and can be purchased online at ptcshows.com or by calling 410-440-8460. Seating is first-come, first-served.