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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.