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Jeff

Thursday, September 27, 2012

CD Review: Jekyll and Hyde (2012 Concept Recording)


The release this week of Jekyll and Hyde: The 2012 Concept Recording represents the 6th English language version (7th if you include the Australian promotional CD made for a production that never happened) and 4th concept recording.  While there are a few songs from the many versions of the score that I enjoy, I have to say up front that this score and show ranks only above Wonderland of all the Frank Wildhorn shows to make it to Broadway.  In general, I find the music to range from terrific and exciting to overwrought and repetitive, while the lyrics (by Leslie Bricusse, with additional lyrics by Steve Cudden) are uniformly trite, simplistic and sometimes laughably rhymed in obvious couplets. (For example, there are exactly three words with more than two syllables in "Someone Like You" - "yesterday," "tomorrow," and "suddenly." And the song contains no new revelations on the time worn metaphor of love as flying, as well as multitudes of identifiers you, me, I, all of which are repeated, along with simplistic time, good and evil imagery that pervades every song.)  Again, there are no revelatory or even original ways of exploring these themes, just repetition and simplicity.  To call the majority of the lyrics banal is generous.  All things considered, the score is superior to the lyrics.

One has to wonder why this score of one of Broadway's longest running flops keeps getting revisited, let alone getting so many recordings.  This current concept recording mainly serves to justify the casting of the upcoming tour and Broadway revival, while the "concept," an updating of the key solos and duets, seems limited mostly to enhanced percussion, synthesized instrumentation and a little bit of electric guitar.  Think "edgy Josh Groban."

Grade: B-/C+




Title: Jekyll and Hyde (2012 Concept Recording)
Artist: Constantine Maroulis, Deborah Cox, and Teal Wicks, with Corey Brunish, Tom Hewitt, Carly Robyn Green, and Shannon  Magrane
Label: Broadway Records
Number: BR-CD00512
Format: Single CD
Case: Single Jewel Case
Booklet: 16 pages.  Package designed by Van Dean.  Photos by Grace Rainer Long.  Logo design by James C. Mulligan.  Liner notes by Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse, Constantine Maroulis, Deborah Cox and Vicky Welfare.  Album produced by Frank Wildhorn, Jason Howland and Billy Jay Stein.  Executive Produced by The Broadway Consortium and Ken Mahoney.

The Revival Promotional Logo

THE CONS


  • The recording points up the repetition of the score.  Mainly because this version preserves the solo and duet numbers and only 2 numbers that include more than the three principals, all but a few songs are different.  The rest are torchy ballads, with nothing to break up the monotony of tone.  And with these numbers back to back it really points up the repetition of themes, images, and, the virtually indistinguishable qualities of the songs sung by the two female vocalists.  The fist time through the CD, I had to consult the booklet to see who was singing what.
  • The "pop modernization" of the songs is mostly ineffective.  Hearing this almost justifies the "too Broadway" comments of the American Idol judges.  The sensibility of this "update" is using the most up-to-date synthetic sound coupled with the emphasis on percussion.  Just who thinks this is really contemporary I'd like to know; this is old school adult contemporary at best in terms of styling. 
  • The scope of the score is missing.  While die hard "Jekkies" will lap up this (and all future) version, a lot of the best parts of the score are missing.  The lack of the exciting/upbeat group numbers like "Murder, Murder" and "Facade" not only points up the repetitive quality of the rest of the score as I mentioned above, but it also takes most of the thrill and fun out of it, too.


Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox


THE PROS


  • Emma.  Wicked fans know her well, but for the rest of us, this recording introduces us to the vocal stylings of Teal Wicks.  She has a lovely voice - one has no trouble visualizing her as Elphaba - and delivers the least vapid performance in the role since Christiane Noll.  And she blends well with both of her co-stars.
  • Lucy.  Deborah Cox is making her return to Broadway, absent since her well-received turn in AIDA.  What is particularly nice about her performance here is that she is really acting the role, not trying to "diva" the whole thing.  She is not trying to replicate Linda Eder - in my opinion a great thing.  Her husky lower register coupled with her soaring upper notes allows us to hear the depth and duality of the ill-fated Lucy.  Cox manages to make "Someone Like You" much more interesting than it has ever been.
  • Jekyll and Hyde.  I never thought I'd ever say this.  Ever.  But Constantine Maroulis does a very good job here.  He smartly avoids Idol-like over done vocal pyrotechnics that we've come to expect from most of  the alumni of that and every other reality show finalist.  The score suits his voice, and he even gets the chance to show that he can actually act.  Though I wonder if his vocal chords will be able to handle the growling, rough edge that he employs when playing Hyde eight times a week - I fear it may hurt the gentle clarity employed when he plays Jekyll.  But at least we can hear it for sure as preserved here.  
  • Some real theatricality.  The chemistry between Cox and Maroulis so evident on the promo art for the revival is just as evident on the recording.  The song "Dangerous Game" is the most theatrical offering on the CD, and it really stands out.  It is everything a musical thriller should be - dark, sensual and creepy as hell.  This recording also re-instates two of the best songs written for the show, and absent from the OBCR, "The Girls of the Night," appropriately moody, and  "I Need to Know," which is vastly superior to "Lost in the Darkness." (I'd suggest to the powers that be that the latter covers the same ground, but not half as well.  Cut it!)  If these numbers, plus an excellently performed "Alive," are any indication of how this cast will do, I am getting very interested.  They make the banality of the lyrics that much easier to take.


Ultimately, this excellently produced cast recording (Broadway Records is now 5 for 5 quality-wise) serves its purpose.  I am far from a Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical fan, and yet, this concept recording has actually made me interested in seeing the forthcoming revival.  I'll never be a Jekkie, but now I have something unexpected to look forward to this spring.


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Jeff
4.029
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1 comment:

  1. Your type of reviews are so worthless and out of touch with the real theater goers. I am not a follower of the show but I have seen it and like it. To think that anyone is sitting counting the syllables of the words is the stupidiest thing I have ever heard. Maybe if critics would bring their noses down from the clouds and just listen and enjoy a show, they'd be better off. As in most popular shows, critics are way off compared to what the public really wants to see.

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