Out of the Darkness

Post-production review of performing in DMT’s production of Jekyll & Hyde.

Feature photo of Spider and some of the Prostitutes from the Red Rat

Show week is always an intense experience, which is usually a mixture of emotions, adrenalin and endurance.  The people around you are so important in making that experience not only bearable but fun as well.  I have to take my show hat off to Devizes Musical Theatre (DMT) for the way things went.

Organisation What director Matt Dauncey did along with MD Susan Braunton and the production team was to organise everything in advance so that all the players knew what they were doing. We were properly prepared before the dress rehearsal and just had to adjust to wearing costumes and having an orchestra.

Performance Buzz The other vital ingredient that was needed was energy.  The directors encouraged us, and the performers were supportive of each other. That meant we were halfway there. The other half of the energy came from the large audiences that attended and brought fresh eyes and reactions to each performance.

Results Having gone through a tech rehearsal and two dress rehearsals (one for each lead actor playing Jekyll/Hyde) the performances went without any major hitches.  The energy didn’t let up either.  By the end, we were still improving and the leads managed to avoid burn-out.

Memorable Moments 1) In one scene, Emma (played by Naomi Ibbetson) managed to call Jekyll ‘Herry’, which is the name of her real-life husband!  Luckily the performers got through the scene without making the moment awkward.

2) Lord Savage has a line before he dies where he informs Sir Danvers of his next move.  In the script it is “Aberdeen actually, I’ll been in the Highland club if you need me”. Each night Phil Greenaway came up with a different place and club name.  His fictional tour took him to Bristol, Derby, Cardiff, Salisbury and a Yorkshire village where one of the cast members lives.

3) The Red Rat is the Brothel stage set where Jekyll (and later Hyde) spends time with Lucy Harris the prostitute.  During the number, ‘Bring on the Men’, several prostitutes dance whilst potential male clients gawk and make dirty comments before being joined by the dancers.  Over the course of the evenings, one particular group upped the acting pretty much every night.  By Saturday, I dare say the advisory 14+ age range restriction was well earned!

Chorus Activity It was a delight to be in the chorus for this show.  Although the musical is mainly focussed on the three leading roles, there is still a surprising amount to do. Façade and Murder, Murder are very good company numbers.  Bring on the Men, the Engagement Party scene and the Wedding provides the chorus with actions and dance routines.  There are also three or four off-stage choruses which are a demanding sing and add to the atmosphere for Jekyll and Lucy’s onstage struggles.

Conclusion With such a welcoming group this was a rare treat.  The comradery offstage was matched by the dedication on it.  What’s even more surprisingly is that whenever someone wasn’t required onstage, they still turned up to rehearsals, including the leads. This commitment continued until the end; Jekyll #2 (Andrew Curtis) performed in the Saturday matinee which allowed Jekyll#1 (Gareth Lloyd) to take a much-deserved rest, but he still stayed to watch the show. Jekyll #2 only had the one show, but Andrew was fully involved throughout the run, not only as understudy, but as the Priest in Act 2 each night and as a backstage helper.

I’ll miss the positive atmosphere that brought the group together.  It gave the week momentum and kept the energy up.  I’ll certainly be interested to see what shows DMT do next.

Escape to the Dark Side

Preview as DMT prepares to performs Jekyll and Hyde

Photo taken from DMT publicity

History

It was originally a book published in 1886 by Robert Louis Stevenson called The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which London lawyer Gabriel John Utterson investigates the strange link between his friend Dr Jekyll and the evil Mr Hyde.  The novella was a great success and a year later it was made into a play adapted by Thomas Sullivan and lead actor Richard Mansfield and premiered in Boston, USA.  A year later it made it to London, but unfortunately just before the first Jack the Ripper murder occurred just streets away, which is perhaps why it wasn’t a success this side of the Atlantic.  Skip forward in time to 1997 when Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Briscusse and Steve Cuden created a musical adaptation that toured the USA before making it to Broadway.

 Dark Drama

This is a show that starts off dark and gets darker.  There is a film noir feel to the proceedings as the morality of Londoners and all people is peered at through dirt-flecked spectacles.  In these surroundings we find the morally-upstanding Dr Jekyll desperate to cure his father’s sanity through radical scientific experiments. Unfortunately the corrupt and vulgar board of governors does not allow this to happen.  In his desperation he becomes his own test victim, and in doing so brings out the worst in himself.

 Musical Style

The show’s emotional content and flow is brilliantly enhanced by the music. There is a little of Les Miserables in the style, and a little of the Phantom about Jekyll and Hyde.  The chorus provide the voice of Londoners who are left reeling by a series of murders, and also the occupants of a seedy brothel. There are several excellent character parts too, including the despicable board of governors.  The female leads Emma Carew and Lucy Harris provide a delightful light and dark contrast, because of their high and low positions in society respectively.  The part of Jekll and Hyde is a crazy leading role, requiring plenty of both stamina and acting prowess.

There are some lovely moments throughout the musical, but what I believe the musical does best, is the duets; between Dr Jekyll and Emma, Mr Hyde and Lucy, Emma and Lucy and finally (and most bizarrely) a one-man duet between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde!

 DMT Production 2018

It is a treat to be in the DMT chorus for this because having watched their previous three shows, I know what an enthusiastic and positive group DMT can be. They always seem to be able to attract new members to what is already a loyal and talented group of performers. For this production they are directed by Matt Dauncey, who I have previously performed with.  What has really impressed me about Matt is his excellent management of people.  He has praised the group in rehearsals for their positive effort and he has often thanked and talks with individuals as well.  On top of this, he is surprisingly organised, which is not always the case with directors.  Perhaps he gets this from Peter Nelson, whom he assisted during the award-winning DMT production of Fiddler on the Roof.  It is a great comfort as a performer to know that you are covering all the material sufficiently and to see what is coming up in future rehearsals.

For the lead roles Gareth Lloyd and Andrew Curtis (who will understudy and perform the Saturday matinee) have an abundance of stage craft and imagination which is needed to carry off this duel-character part.  The parts of Emma Carew and Lucy Harris will be played by Naomi Ibbetson and Laura Deacon respectively.  This is an excellent choice of casting as they have such wonderful but such contrasting voices.  Naomi’s is pure and bright whilst Laura’s has so many tones and is far more earthy.

The production is at Dauntsey’s School outside of Devizes, Wiltshire from 11-14th April.  It should be an excellent show and I thoroughly recommend experiencing it. Expect dark drama, yes, but also be surprised with yourself for having enjoyed it!

For more information go to http://www.devizesmusicaltheatre.co.uk/