The new revival of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s 1997 musical, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s alter-ego melodrama, is taking an unusual path: It’s been touring North America on its way to opening on Broadway, rather than the other way around. Perhaps its producers sensed a tour would be less plausible after New York reviewers get a hold of this production, led by American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis and minor-league R&B diva Deborah Cox.
Not that the show’s problems can be pinned on its stars, both of whom display a good deal of talent and charm. But Bricusse’s campy book and Wildhorn’s schlocky, shapeless score prove resistant to director Jeff Calhoun’s half-hearted attempts to polish them. The show’s first half is fairly promising, even if the only elements separating Maroulis’s well-meaning Jekyll and monstrous Hyde are a pair of spectacles and a ponytail holder.
But things go downhill fast in Act II, when the composer and lyricist document Hyde’s killing spree with such intricate songcraft as “Look at this, another murder / Just like the other murder.” Cox, as a heart-and-voice-of-gold prostitute who enamors both Jekyll and Hyde, treats her big solos, “Someone Like You” and “A New Life,” exactly like the generic beauty-pageant-talent-portion anthems they are.
Yet the real high/low comes in the climactic “Confrontation,” a duet between Jekyll and Hyde that was in previous incarnations performed by the lead actor as an internal power struggle for dominance. Calhoun has the onstage Maroulis, as Jekyll, facing off against a pre-recorded, flame-backed projection of himself as a demonic Hyde that calls to mind a Rob Zombie music video, but with lower-budget F/X. Even competing Constantines can’t drown out the unintended giggles.