'Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical' director brings fresh take to show
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, January 20, 2013
1/20/13 at 4:28 AM
The best description director Jeff Calhoun has for the version of "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical" coming to Tulsa is that this show is "a revisal."
"There have been so many different versions of this show," Calhoun said, "that it made sense to take this opportunity and create the best possible incarnation."
Composer Frank Wildhorn first created what he called his "Gothic musical thriller" in 1990, first as a concept album, then as a fully staged production at Houston's Alley Theater.
The musical was reworked for a tour that led to its 1997 Broadway incarnation, where it ran for more than 1,500 performances.
Now, "Jekyll & Hyde" is on the road again - a 25-city tour that will culminate with the new production opening a limited Broadway run in April.
"To me, Broadway is just the last stop on the tour," Calhoun said, laughing.
But then, Broadway is very much home for Calhoun, who already has a hit show playing on the Great White Way - "Newsies," which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Director, one of eight nominations the show received.
Calhoun has also directed the musicals "9 to 5" and "Brooklyn," directed and choreographed the 1994 revival of "Grease" and choreographed the revival of "Annie Get Your Gun" that brought Reba McEntire to Broadway.
Calhoun also directed the last Frank Wildhorn musical to go to Broadway - the 2011 production of "Bonnie and Clyde," which closed after a month of shows.
"That is maybe my favorite Frank Wildhorn score," Calhoun said. "And it was a heartbreaking experience that it wasn't embraced more by the press. The audience loved it, which is true of just about every show Frank has done.
"I really don't understand where the critics' animosity toward Frank's music comes from," he said. "I think he's a musical genius - a master songwriter who crafts these beautiful melodies. So when he called me to be a part of this 'Jekyll & Hyde' project, I was honored."
That didn't mean, however, that Calhoun was going to treat "Jekyll & Hyde" with kid gloves.
"To be honest, I had never seen a production of the show, so I came in with no preconceived notions," he said. "We started with the myriad of songs that have been written for this show, deciding what to keep and what to jettison."
The next challenge was creating the physical productions. Calhoun said he did not want an old-fashioned set that smacked of the Victorian era in which the story takes place.
"I wanted to create a world that is as sexy and as dangerous as the story itself is," he said. "At the same time, I wanted to have a set that would give the audience its money's worth, but still would be easy enough to tour.
"When you know you're moving a show into a theater and it's going to sit there for weeks and weeks, you don't need to be so clever with how you build the thing," Calhoun said. "But when you have to break the thing down on Sunday night, load it into trucks and then set up again on Tuesday, it changes things."
Calhoun brought in what he calls his "secret weapon," scenic designer Tobin Ost, to create a physical production that mixes Victoriana with the modern idea of industrialized science fiction known as "steampunk."
Other aspects of the show have undergone some changes. The musical's ensemble, which in past productions was something of a faceless horde, will be more individualized.
"We wanted to make the ensemble integral to the storytelling," Calhoun said. "The audience will get to know these characters better than they have in the past, and we can play up the class differences that are inherent in the story - that relationship between the 'haves' and 'have nots'.
"On top of everything," he said, "we've got Constantine (Maroulis) and Deborah (Cox) heading our cast. He's a great rock 'n' roll voice, she brings this R & B quality to the music - it really makes this show feel very contemporary and 21st century."
‘JEKYLL & HYDE: THE MUSICAL’
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday,
2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7
p.m. Jan. 27
Where: Chapman Music Hall,
Tulsa PAC, 101 E. Third St.
Tickets: $20-$65. 918-596-7111,
Original Print Headline: Modern Victorian
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
One change: The musical's usual "faceless horde" ensemble will be more individualized.
Jeff Calhoun: "I wanted to create a world that is as sexy and as dangerous as the story itself is."