Pellow Alive in Jekyll & Hyde

Posted on March 8, 2011

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One could be forgiven for believing the equation that musicals equal happy clappy fluff and flowers. One could be forgiven for approaching a musical with the idea that the happy ending still exists for this one form of entertainment medium and that at the end of the show everything will be alright for our hero and (probably) his girl.

One hasn’t seen Jekyll & Hyde.

Taking the stage at Grand Canal Theatre for one week only, former Wet Wet Wet front man Marti Pellow steps admirably into the dual role of Henry Jekyll / Edward Hyde having previously stretched his acting chops on roles in Chicago and The Witches of Eastwick.

And my what a performance it is.

Jekyll & Hyde tells the famous Robert Louis Stevenson story of the dual personality lead to the soundtrack of some wonderful music by Frank Wildhorn. Following rejection from the hospital board of governors, Dr Henry Jekyll decides to use himself as a subject in testing his theory that man is made up of both evil and good, and the two can be separated and controlled.

The show, whether it likes it or not, revolves around the central performance of Marti Pellow and, really, if he doesn’t work in the lead, the show fails to work. But work he does.

For the first third of the show he delivers his lines and songs static and almost lazily to the untrained eye. He paradoxically sits and sings his way through numbers whose lyrics connote movement and action not mirrored by his eerie stillness on the stage.

Jekyll & Hyde, as a musical, really does not take flight until after the pivotal number “This is the Moment”. I wouldn’t hesitate in saying that it is the most important number in the show. Not only is it beautifully written but it is also the catalyst for all the action that is to follow. If it falls flat, you’re facing an uphill battle.

But Pellow delivers beautifully, with all the gusto of original (concept artist) Jekyll portrayer Anthony Warlow. He delivers the number with power and feeling and the show gathers momentum from there. The rest of his performance is unrestrained and at times breathless, his depiction between his good self and evil self switching wonderfully between tortured genius and evil maniac.

In the opening number of the second half, Pellow (as Hyde) bounds in and out of the scene with a joyous glee that you might otherwise attribute to a comedy villain. But his practice is anything but comedy. His portrayal of Hyde swings from this almost slapstick joy to the dark, dangerous and somewhat risqué acts of murder and sexual violence that he partakes in. At times, Pellow seems to err just on the right side of hamming up this side of his character; at others it feels like David Lynch crossed with Quentin Tarrantino.

As the spunky Emma Carew, Sarah Earnshaw is well cast and portrays all of the strength but ultimate innocence of her character in her sweet solo numbers. Her duet with Jekyll (Take Me As I Am) is wonderfully warm and tender.

If there is one cast member who might have just stolen Pellow’s thunder it is Sabrina Carter in the role of prostitute Lucy who is simply stunning. Between the two female leads, the rendition of ‘In His Eyes’ is something to be cherished as an example of how a stage duet should be performed.

If there are faults to be found they are trivial at best. At times, the accents are difficult to distinguish and some of the main leads’ lines were lost as a result of this.  The ending of the show also seemed slightly rushed for the moment that was in it and I seem to remember on previous viewings of the show that there was more action in the ending sequence, particularly between Jekyll and Emma but these gripes are overshadowed by the strong performances all across the stage.

The set too is cleverly put together and an interesting trick with some mirrors emphasises a pivotal moment in the second half of the show.

Since Grand Canal Theatre opened, I have been privy to a number of opening nights for numerous different shows. But as the bows took place tonight it struck me that I had quite possibly seen the fastest standing ovation of the auditorium yet when Marti Pellow took the stage for his bow.

And while the leading man has moved on from his days as a pop icon, he gave a performance which it seems to me, the audience felt in their fingers. And in their toes….

Jekyll & Hyde runs until Saturday. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster

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Posted in: Reviews