VPR Goes Backstage with “Jekyll and Hyde, the Musical”

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(Host) Summer theater is under way all over Vermont with performances of Broadway standards and recent plays. During the season, Vermont Public Radio goes “Backstage” to talk with actors and directors about the plays and the performances.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff visits the Stowe Theatre Guild’s production of “Jekyll and Hyde, the Musical.”

(Charnoff) Long before scientists busied themselves with stem cell research and genetic engineering, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his classic novel about Dr. Henry Jekyll. Determined to free his father from mental illness, Jekyll attempted to create a potion that would separate the good from the evil in man. Stevenson created one of fiction’s first great dual personalities.

Good versus evil is at the heart of “Jekyll and Hyde, The Musical,” currently being performed by the Stowe Theater Guild. As adapted by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn, the story is expanded to include music and romance.

(Sound of song, “In His Eyes.”)

(Charnoff) Marc Yakubosky is the production’s musical director. He says “Jekyll and Hyde” is a challenge for any theater company. There are 32 cast members, including several children. Yakubosky says that of the play’s two hour and twenty minute running length, about two hours and 7 minutes is music.

(Yakubosky) “As far as the genre, it is American musical theater, but it is crafted much like an opera, in that the music moves along the action rather than the dialog. While most of the score is Broadway and pop in nature, there is also some sacred music in it, and there is also a quartet at the end of the first act that sounds very Pucciniesque, very operatic. So the composer did a wonderful job catering to all sorts of musical tastes.”

(Charnoff) The ambitious nature of the production is reflected in the complex lyrics and choreography of the song “Fa ade”. (Sound of “Fa ade.”)

Joseph Mara is “Jekyll and Hyde’s” director. He says that in the novel, Stevenson was warning future generations about the perils of tampering with nature:

(Mara) “There’s relevance to what’s going on in society now, with what took place in Victorian times, as it relates to medical ethics, as it relates to classes in society. I think even global events tie into it, this whole concept of good and evil. Nothing seems to be in the middle, it’s black and white, in terms of good and evil.”

(Charnoff) Mara adds that Stevenson’s story contains timeless themes that translate into powerful musical theater.

(Mara) “Our feeling was, you know, we got something that’s got an interesting story that deals on a number of different levels, yet can be communicated as a musical love story, also. So we’ve combined this element of dance, which is not conventional dance as you will see, with this beautiful music with the basic tenet of good and evil, and questions that are as relevant today as they were, 112, 115 years ago.”

(Charnoff) For VPR backstage, I’m Neal Charnoff.

(Host) The Stowe Theatre Guild’s production of “Jekyll and Hyde, the Musical” runs through July 6 at the Town Hall Theater. VPR Backstage is a production of Vermont Public Radio. The production engineer is Chris Albertine.

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