This musical twist on an old classic successfully transfers from Broadway to Bankside. But something of the original tale is inevitably lost within all the songs and set pieces.
The basic premise of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is widely known. However, beyond the concept of the conflict between evil and good inherent within all of us, the rest of the tale has not entered the public consciousness to the same extent as other 19th century yarns; say Sherlock Holmes or Frankenstein. This allowed the writers of the musical version to take significant liberties with the storyline, introducing not one but two love interests to spice up the largely all-male original.
Morphic Graffiti's production stays true to the musical, rather than the original tale. The ambitious nature of the Broadway production has not been scaled back, despite the spatial limitations. One of the common traits of productions at the Union is that there are often almost as many members of the cast as there are audience members; not because these shows lack popular appeal but because they never appear concerned with the fact that they are to be performed on a much smaller stage than originally intended.
This being a musical, all members of the large cast sing their hearts out – admittedly sometimes when speaking their lines would have been as effective, if not more so. The en masse singing is accomplished and the protagonists' solos are all sensitively and professionally sung, all accompanied by a five strong band. The set pieces are equally impressive, particularly the very believable brothel scene; those in the front row are so close to the action that they are almost subjected to a lap dance.
The dramatic transformation of Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde equals a demanding role. Tim Rogers does not disappoint, switching from the sort of man that you'd be happy to take home to your mother to a menacing, murderous monster who has lost all grip on reality. Madalena Alberto is equally compelling to watch, as Lucy the innocent who has seen and experienced too much of the evil in the world.
Do not go to the Union Theatre expecting a faithful translation of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale. However this ambitious production manages to be both entertaining and thought-provoking, and should be seen for that reason. A word of caution though, to those who find themselves in the front row: do not expect to emerge quite as clean as when you entered.