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Young Dr. Jekyll: A New Musical

Young Dr. Jekyll: A New Musical

As I watched “Young Dr. Jekyll” unfold on Friday night, I thought how perfect the show would have been for the late, lamented New York State Theatre Institute in Troy.

The musical’s easy tuneful numbers; the one-dimensional characters, broadly played; the goofy humor; and the overarching theme of finding out what’s important and who you are and being proud of it would have been exactly the kind of satisfying material NYSTI used to present school groups of various ages.

Actually, there probably are other theaters for young people across the country for whom this show would be ideal.

The plot revolves around a 20-something Dr. Harry Jekyll (James Hunsaker), who, on a Pacific island, makes a scientific discovery that he believes will make people more intelligent.

When he returns to London, he takes up residence with his artist brother, Arthur (Cameron Niles), and another flatmate, Charlie (Berkley Jones), whose real name is Charlotte. Charlotte, however, must disguise herself because women haven’t yet been admitted to medical school. Only Arthur knows Charlotte’s secret.

There’s also a subplot involving the burgeoning romantic relationship between the trio’s landlord, Mr. Folsom (Chris Isolano), and a nightclub entertainer, Brigitte (Meghan Deeley).

For adults the script is pleasant, but not much more. At least we found it so.

It is not 95 minutes, without intermission, as advertised. It is a long 110 minutes without intermission.

There are a couple of scenes (e.g., in the cabaret) that are too long; the required set changes, though efficiently done, take up time and slow the momentum; the patina of silliness that comes over certain scenes is a bit startling; the predictable, internal rhyming becomes wearying (for example, “I watched them brew that ancient stew” is an oft-repeated pattern).

On the other hand, a few of the songs, with music and lyrics by Philip David Stern, are appealing: “Side Effects,” “Be More,” “Right Place, Right Time,” and “You Had Me at Bonjour” stand out for their cleverness or emotional depth.

And the production is absolutely first-rate. This young cast throws itself into the proceedings with splendid voices, comedic timing, and boundless physical energy, giving the material every opportunity to be heard and appreciated. Stern’s co-creator, Lisa Hopkins, provides smart direction/choreography for the small stage, helping the performers negotiate the charming (almost cartoonish) set by Steven Medina and coordinate well with the pre-recorded music. (I love the accordion, and Stern has used it marvelously in his orchestrations.)

This show is yet another in a series of musicals by New York Stage Originals, co-founded two decades ago by Hopkins and Stern.

Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors, said in an interview with The Gazette’s Bill Buell, "I am very excited by this relationship (with NYSO) and I hope it's a long-term one," said Morris. "I saw the reading for the play and I thought it was worthy of an audience.”

In the program is a questionnaire about your reaction to the show, and at the matinees on June 10 and June 16, there are talkbacks after the performance.

If you (and a favorite teen) would like to be part of the process of “launching” a new work, stop by The Addy. 

WHERE: The Addy at Proctors, 432 State St.
WHEN:   through June 16
HOW MUCH:  $30
MORE INFO:  518.346.6204, or proctors.org

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