Morphic Graffiti, Part 18 and Widow Twankey’s Laundry

So it’s Tuesday May 29th and we are about to begin week three of Jekyll and Hyde performances. Woop!! Things are going from strength to strength with regards the show and the amazing work from cast, band and stage management. We are still having a fantastic response from critics with a few more online blog reviews and published reviews coming through. The reaction from the audience is incredible. Some have left the theatre moved to tears, others have been articulating how fantastic it is to see the show on its feet and in London!

We have been overwhelmed with the positivity towards the piece and on behalf of everyone involved, to those who has supported us – thank you! After the nervous excitement of the first few performances, the nerves have been replaced with an edgy and raw energy that keeps the pace and the flow of the show going. Our band (Dean, Scott, Sophie, John and James) are proving increasingly popular with audiences blown away by the orchestral sound of the piece while maintaining the ability to still hear the cast’s every word.

Stewart is in this week with Gareth to address a few set maintenace issues. The fluidity of the piece and the sixteen cast members mean that it takes a lot of using and moving. It is strong and sturdy, but as with any show, things break or need replacing and we have at least one sticky door knob to adjust and a door slider to adjust!

The day to day running of the show is now well established. Katherine and Danielle in the Stage Management have got their respective roles down to perfection. At the interval of every show, a small military operation takes place as costumes from Act One are struck, Act 2 costumes and props are set in place and large set pieces are replaced with even bigger ones! And all in twenty minutes!! While our audiences relax over a glass of wine, behind the auditorium doors is organised chaos!

Unfortunately the Union does not have a washing machine facility and with large amounts of blood and the standard sweat levels of 16 cast, the washing rota is alternating between Luke and Stewart. Luke’s flat looks like Widow Twankeys Laundry with all manner of underwear, overwear, bedwear and officewear adorning every available drying rack and shelf! But it is a small price to pay with a show like this and we are more than happy to get our hands dirty!

Tickets are selling well, and with just two weeks left after this week, we are urging people to book up sooner rather than later. We would hate for you to miss this amazing event that is happening at the Union!

A friend of mine said recently that our reviews are “simply something to die for”. While this comment was a little theatrical and over the top (and possibly a good marketing quote!!), it made me take a step back for a second and evaluate where we are at. While there is always room to grow and develop (my own flaw as a perfectionist!!) it would seem that something quite special is happening in a small archway between London Bridge and Waterloo that has captured the imaginations of not only those involved, but of those coming to see it. Here’s to keeping that imagination alive and sharing it with those who plump to come and see it.

 

See you at the Union!!!

www.morphicgraffiti.com

 

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Morphic Graffiti, Part 17 and the first Review Round Up!!!

So today has been about the reviews coming in from the weekend’s Press activities and what an incredible response to our production. We tried to condense the reviews as much as we can, but so much has been articulated, we wanted to share with everyone who reads the blog.

Mark Shenton (The Stage)

Yet last Friday I saw a production of Jekyll and Hyde at the tiny Union Theatre in Southwark that made me wonder both whether the original Broadway production got it fatally wrong and also whether I’ve been even more undeservedly been getting Wildhorn wrong.

I’ve never objected to the score: the original Broadway cast recording has always been a guilty pleasure. Wildhorn knows how to write great melodies, but there’s always been a mismatch between the contemporary-sounding score, with its American Idol style ballads (not least of them ‘This is the Moment’) and its period setting.

That problem is instantly solved by director Luke Fredericks by setting Morphic Graffiti’s production in the here and now too, giving it a real intensity and amplifying both its clarity and feeling. It is also greatly helped by the calibre of performances in this tiny space: one of the ongoing wonders of the fringe, and the Union in particular, is just who is prepared to work here.

Tim Rogers, an Aussie who has played leading roles at home in musicals and in opera, has previously appeared in the West End in the return of Lloyd Webber’s Whistle Down the Wind, is outstanding in the title role/s, but even more incredible is Madalena Alberto, a Portuguese born songbird who was Fantine in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables that came to the Barbican. Her performance as Lucy here is one of the best sung in London at the moment. It’s the role that was originated by Wildhorn’s muse (and now former wife) Linda Eder, and Alberto is every bit her vocal equal. But there’s barely a weak link anywhere in the company.

Broadwayworld.com 

Morphic Graffitti could be accused of playing safe with their debut production but such accusations would be unfounded. A cast of sixteen crowd the tiny space below the railway arches, increasing the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Briccusse-Wildhorn musical – Morphic Graffitti will become a name to watch.

Tim Rogers is twitchy and nervous as a messianic Jekyll, drunk on his dreams of saving the world, whose self-medication transforms him into a hooded hoodlum serial-killing round London, firstly in vengeance at those who slighted him, then because he just likes it. Wisely, Rogers’ transformation is more psychological than physical, with the blurring of the boundaries between the doctor and his alter-ego asking more questions than any hairy-handed Hyde would. Rogers is supported by a strong ensemble with some fine singing from Joanna Strand as his fiancee and a powerhouse performance from Madalena Alberto as the doomed tart-with-a-heart.

Director Luke Fredericks gives us a serious show about a serious subject – the evil that lies dormant within us all. He backs the cast to convey emotion without shouting, without melodramatic gestures and without drawing clear lines between the goodies and the baddies; and they don’t let him down. This is musical theatre for grown-ups.

 

Whatsonstage.com ****

The Union Theatre, with its stone walls and slightly dank feel, provides the perfect atmosphere for this dark piece and designer Ben Walden’s clever use of video adds depth and texture to the grey and white walls of the core set. It’s particularly effective during the large chorus numbers and as Hyde stalks through the streets searching out his victims

In the central role(s) Tim Rogers is wonderfully villainous, his swaggering, larger-than-life Hyde thoroughly transforming him from the genial (dare we say dull) Dr Jekyll.  Leading ladies Madalena Alberto, who plays the ill-fated prostitute Lucy Harris, and Joanna Strand – Jekyll’s strong-willed fiancée – both give strong performances, their duet in the second half being beautifully balanced and moving.

All in all an engaging and entertaining evening – Morphic Graffiti should be applauded for an accomplished inaugural production.

A Younger Theatre

Jekyll and Hyde is a favourite musical for a lot of people, including myself, so it’s a brave move to take something so firmly set in the Victorian era and bring it into the twenty-first century. Half of the time, an update hits several walls, so it’s a testament to this production that not only is Wildhorn and Bricusse’s musical popular enough to warrant an update, but that Director Luke Fredericks successfully achieves it.

… A subplot is invented between Jekyll/Hyde and a prostitute, Lucy (played brilliantly by Madalena Alberto if you ignore the indeterminate accent). The heartfelt stories of Lucy and her love rival, Emma Carew (sung beautifully by Joanna Strand), were responsible for a few tears being shed. Updating these characters has made them seem more three-dimensional, and lends a particular grittiness to the roles.

The intimacy of their stories contrasts with the ferocity with which Tim Rogers plays Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde. Rogers’s dichotomy of character is expertly played; his Hyde in particular is darkly enigmatic and well physicalised.

Jekyll and Hyde is a difficult show to direct, belief in the story depends a lot upon how the transformation of Jekyll/Hyde is portrayed, and Fredericks’s simple choices combined with Rogers’s acting were a thousand times more effective than other productions I’ve seen, which have rested on spectacle and costume.

Catherine Webb’s use of torchlight and washes, and the fuzzy production of Ben Walden’s video projections, combined to create the menacing atmosphere of the gothic novel.

Updating it is surprisingly easy: Jekyll’s proposal is made to an NHS medical body and his diary is written on a Mac. The slightly stoned portrayal of Lucy also brings a true sadness to the role. The multiplicity of personas in the chorus is more relatable than the very thin divide of simply rich and poor. The staging is fast-paced, and the chorus especially precise.

Charlesworth and Fredericks’s company Morphic Graffiti turns a traditional musical which has always had the potential to be something more, into just that. It’s slick and sinister: a deliciously wicked piece of theatre.

Todomusicales

The director of the show Luke Fredericks – co-creator of Morphic Graffiti alongside Stewart Charlesworth – has opted to move the action to the XXI century, leaving the original Victorian aesthetics behind, thus bringing closer to the public the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll

Tim Rogers portrays Jekyll and Hyde, presenting an affable Jekyll, immediately empathised by the audience. This is counterpointed by his Hyde, seductive, amoral and violent. Jekyll / Hyde is certainly one of the most intense and complicated male characters in Musical Theatre, requiring great effort and skill, both vocal and dramatic, by the interpreter. Rogers unfolds this difficult task beautifully.

Alongside Rogers are the two female protagonists of the story: Joanna Strand playing Jekyll´s fiancee Emma, and Madalena Alberto playing Lucy, the prostitute who seduces and is seduced by the two personalities of the protagonist. While Strand offers a calm and serene reply to Jekyll, performing her songs with beauty, Madalena Alberto performs her character from a mounting hurricane, destroying all that is before her in all her appearances on stage. Her strength and passion did not go unnoticed by the audience on the opening night, who offered big applause after her main numbers, such as “Someone Like You”. Madalena sings with extreme sensitivity and skill.

Joining the three main characters, there are thirteen performers in the ensemble, whose work and commitment offer us a sublime theatrical experience.

In addition, the wonderful score composed by Frank Wildhorn is performed live  with impeccable orchestrations written by Tom Curran.

The set of this version of JEKYLL AND HYDE is based on a majorly raw space in which different locations of the story appear and disappear seemingly, due to the great work of the designer Stewart Charlesworth.

JEKYLL AND HYDE is a great piece of musical theatre, and the production presented by Morphic Graffiti proves it in good faith. Any Musical Theatre fan who visits the city of London must see this production, that will be playing at the Union Theatre until 16th June and surely deserves to be transferred to the West End.

FrontRowDress

With music by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, this 1999 musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Victorian novel tells the story of a well meaning doctor, Jekyll, who uses himself as a guinea pig for research into split personalities, in the process unleashing his own inner demon in the form of the murderous Mr Hyde.

In a stroke of creative genius, director Luke Fredericks has transposed the action to contemporary London …. with great projections and videos, especially effective when showing cctv footage capturing Hyde’s grisly crimes.

Tim Rogers is a dream (and a dreamboat) in the title role(s) switching effortlessly between the earnest bespectacled yet blinkered Jekyll to the ultimate bad boy, evil sensual Hyde.

Joanna Strand as his fiancée is totally believable as the woman standing by her man in the face of his ever-increasing irrational behaviour. Madalena Alberto as a prostitute befriended by Jekyll on his stag night and later abused by Hyde strikes the right balance as she reveals the inner vulnerability beneath a tough exterior. Both of these women sing the hell out of the score and Alberto’s whorehouse anthem “Bring on the Men” is an early highlight.

If the first act is all Jekyll, the second belongs to Hyde and Tim Rogers flexes his acting and singing muscles to fine effect in both. Rogers is a magnetic leading man and even manages to bring some unselfish tenderness to Hyde in the closing moments, by which time he has all-but consumed Jekyll. Rogers really is another for my “one to watch” list.

London SE1

This musical twist of an old classic successfully transfers from Broadway to Bankside.

With a gripping story, strong cast, a great 5 piece bandand exceptionally creative direction and musical staging from Luke Fredericks and Adam Murray, this kept me enthralled throughout.

Morphic Graffiti’s production stays true to the musical, rather than the original tale. The ambitious nature of the Broadway production has not been scaled back, despite the spatial limitations.

The set pieces are equally impressive, particularly the very believable brothel scene; those in the front row are so close to the action that they are almost subjected to a lap dance.

The dramatic transformation of Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde equals a demanding role. Tim Rogers does not disappoint, switching from the sort of man that you’d be happy to take home to your mother to a menacing, murderous monster who has lost all grip on reality.

Madalena Alberto is equally compelling to watch, as Lucy the innocent who has seen and experienced too much of the evil in the world.

Do not go to the Union Theatre expecting a faithful translation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale. However this ambitious production manages to be both entertaining and thought-provoking, and should be seen for that reason. A word of caution though, to those who find themselves in the front row: do not expect to emerge quite as clean as when you entered.

BackstagePass

Morphic Graffiti have taken the musical version and produced an exciting creation.

The chorus is made up of a number of strong actors, with incredible voices. One deserving mention is Lydia Jenkins. Cast as Nellie, Jenkins has a magnificent voice and it is a shame that she is not given more of an opportunity to show it off.

Facade, however, is a great number and is extremely catchy. I left the performance singing the song and pondering the words.

Although the musical was not what I expected, having only read the book and not seen any adaptations of it, … I highly recommend it and would go as far as saying it could give some West End shows a run for their money.

Shinesquad

This is absolutely the one to watch. It deserved three standing ovations last night. It didn’t get them because of the size of the theatre, the intimacy that brings and also because, quite rightly, the audience might have been stunned by the energy and excellence of the production by Morphic Graffiti.

It’s a marvel how they fitted such a clever stage in such a small space. Projected onto the set’s proscenium arch a blog entry, a stained glass window, the logo of the hospital – such a simple device conveyed so much. It’s contemporary London with Blackberrys, hoodies and CCTV. Stepping behind police lines to visit the Victorian loos, where the print outs of online news reports of a killer on the loose added to the impecable detail of the show.

The menace and attractiveness of the buffed lead Tim Rogers builds to a sparkling and gruesome finale. Powerhouse performances come from Joanna Strand as Jekyll’s fiancee, Emma Carew and stunning songstress Madalena Alberto as Hyde’s tart Lucy Harris. Mark Goldthorp as lawyer John Utterson is the voice of reason in the maddening world into which we descend.

Director Luke Fredericks and set designer Stewart Charlesworth have set up Morphic Graffiti to produce inventive and inspiring work. This they’ve done. In wheelie binfuls.

Having recently seen the five star vocal performances from Michael Ball and an acting tour-de-force of Imelda Staunton on the West End with Sweeney Todd – I can tell you Jekyll and Hyde delivers just as much. Not only in the macabre but more bang for your buck at only £20 a ticket.

This show has gone for transformation, obsession and the haunting of London.

Don’t just run, murder to get a ticket.

Morphic Graffiti, Part 16 and the first production images!!

The oddest thing is happening right now. I am sitting in the Union Theatre bar, it is afternoon and Jekyll and Hyde is officially open!

This past week has been an emotional rollercoaster and a breath taking amount of work has got us to this point. As I hear the vocal harmonies of ‘Alive’ ring through the theatre wall, it makes me smile and feel a little bit fuzzy inside.

But we cannot pretend that this week went by like a gentle breeze!

The tornado began Saturday evening as we unloaded the set in the Union, straight after the get-out for Babes in Arms had finished (thank you for letting us do that Sasha!) Then, first thing Sunday morning, the set went up, Cat arrived to rig lights and Ben rigged the projector. The director, meanwhile, drove around south London picking up everything from lights to magnets!

Throughout the day on Sunday, the band rehearsed through the entire show, ironing out musical issues and reprinting arrangements. As we worked on the stage, the sounds coming from upstairs were incredible. Add the cast at 6pm for their sitzprobe (when full band and cast meet up for the first time) and something very special happened!

All the while the band played, Cat and Ben worked tirelessly on focussing the projections and lights. Stewart and his team put the set up and everyone ploughted through the initial ‘get-in’. Only a slight mix up with an innocent computer mouse dampened the spirits for a short while, but by Sunday night, the world of Jekyll and Hyde was very much in place!

Monday and Tuesday were long tech days. Staging had to be finalised, lights and cues marked in the script, props sought and placed, costumes altered. Then once that was done (usually by 10pm both nights!) Stewart and his band of incredible helpers (Sharon, Gareth – thank you!!) painted, sawed and generally shaped the set to what is currently next door as I type! It is a work of art!

Wednesday then, and after a shaky morning of trying to sort some technical bits, we took a short lunch break and ploughed into a dress rehearsal. Sharing the moment with us and capturing images of the show, were Tigz (Tigz Rice Studios) and Katherine (Katherine James Photography). To everyone’s delight, the show ran (with glitches but nonetheless it ran!) and after copious notes and jiggling we opened as planned at 7.30pm.

The audience response was fantastic and for everyone, the applause and subsequent comments made us all feel that we had achieved something quite special. There was definite room to grow and refine, but the show worked and that was a huge psychological hurdle for all involved.

Fast forward through more tech rehearsals and another preview on Thursday evening (2 sold out previews) with a few minor tweaks, we had our press night on Friday with a crammed theatre. Audience reactions have been incredibly positive and reviews are starting to come out which appear to be very favourable! The first of which we have created a link to:

http://westend.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Reviews-JEKYLL-AND-HYDE-THE-MUSICAL-Union-Theatre-May-18-2012-20120519

 

We will leave you with the first couple of production shots from the show. Enjoy.

More will be on the website shortly.

Luke x

http://www.morphicgraffiti.com

Morphic Graffiti, Part 15 and the lack of sleep!

So it’s the first full day of technical rehearsals over and done with! Crikey!! The set is up, the costumes have been sought and sewn (well nearly!!), the band are rehearsing and sounding a dream, the lights are plotting, the VT is projecting and as I type this our designer is attacking a wall with a large tub of black paint!

Yes we are now in the Union and it’s all systems go with regards to Jekyll and Hyde!! We have not stopped. Saturday night the set arrived in kit form ready for yesterday’s “get in”. As well as putting the set in the right place and making sure it is secure, Cat (lighting designer) has been working her magic with lanterns and Ben has been hidden behind his laptop working on the projections.

Last night, the cast arrived with their voices primed for the ‘sitzprobe’, whereby the band (after a long days band call) and cast met and sang through the show. To say the result was electrifying would be an understatement. Numbers such as ‘Murder Murder’ and ‘Alive’ have jumped up several gears in intensity and power, and the results are spine-tingling! We have a band of five musicians but the exact arrangement will remain a mystery until opening night on wednesday! Take my word for it, however, that you will be mesmerised.

As well as the work in the rehearsal room, we have had continuing support from Lauren (Production Assistant) who has circumnavigated London on the hunt for all manner of set pieces and props and has worked tirelessly with paper mache all day! Today we had the sewing skills of James Lacey to create some religious wear and even a nun outfit (or three!). No photos though as that would give the game away!

Tech rehearsals are notoriously long and tiring but full credit to all for keeping this one going. So many different departments are working tirelessly and there is still so much to do, but already we are starting to see what we can achieve. And if all else fails, pizza will get us through it!! Thank you everyone involved!!

http://www.morphicgraffiti.com

 

Morphic Graffiti, Part 14 and a rehearsal room update!

It is time to put pen to paper (or finger to key) and take five minutes to update everyone on how things are developing with the show.

Firstly, where has the time gone? We have just started week three! When did that happen? Rehearsals are galloping apace and some incredible work is going on. Musically, the vocals are tightening and blossoming. Anyone walking past the Union theatre of late will have heard some very loud and very tight harmonies blasting out.

Ideas for songs have grown and developed with some incredible results. Focussing on the story and channelling the characters behind some very popular musical theatre standards has created some unique and very real results. I would love to give you examples but that would give the game away!

What we can guarantee is this will be a production of Jekyll and Hyde like no other before it. Taking this brilliant score and script and interpreting every nuance and word is time consuming but ultimately so rewarding.

Costume fittings have been going on daily and the results are superb. Our prostitutes are looking fierce, our aristocrats look every inch the part and there are more bags than anyone could wish for!

More photos have been taken in rehearsals and Katherine (Katherine James Photography) has been in taking more publicity shots. This time of Emma (Jo Strand) and Lucy (Madalena Alberto). In a similar vein to our previous picture of Tim Rogers as Jekyll, this image will form part of our marketing campaign. So watch this space!

Ticket sales are certainly increasing and word of mouth seems to be growing. The impact of our video viral has been huge and if you haven’t yet seen it, hide behind a pillow and click the link below!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6530s5Ae_X0

Ben continues to work incredibly hard on the Video design, with a scheduled shoot tomorrow morning at 9am before we head back to rehearsals! The level of work behind the scenes is absolutely insane and must take a second to say how amazing and brilliant everyone involved has been and continues to be. The production that will result from all this work is a testament to the creativity, genius and sheer determination of everyone involved.

But enough gushing in this blog! In other news, the programme has gone to print with our friends at Paperhat. Mike Fraga has pulled out all the stops. It doesn’t look from the front like it should be the programme but that is our very intention!! We shall say no more.

Katherine Tippins our stage manager continues to hunt props from far flung corners of the universe. I cannot say the types of props or give anything away but one significant prop is involved in the death of Lady Beaconsfield and if we find it, it will be remembered long after the curtain comes down!

Can you sense we are dropping lots of teasers and hints and being very unspecific?! That is deliberate and completely part of our strategy to entice you to come down to the Union and watch the show!

Will post more soon, but til then keep checking the website:

www.morphicgraffiti.com

Twitter: @morphicgraffiti