Jekyll & Hyde – 2012 recording

Another Jekyll & Hyde? Yes. There is a new production of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s gothic musical thriller heading out on the national tour route with Broadway an intended destination. There is also a new recording of the score.

While the stars of the tour and of the recording are the same – Tony Award nominee (Rock of Ages) Constantine Maroulis as the good doctor and his evil alter ego, Deborah Cox as the prostitute who turns to the doctor for protection from the monster, and Teal Wicks as the doctor’s supportive betrothed – the new disc is not, strictly speaking, a recording of the tour production.

For one thing, the supporting cast members used for the two songs that appear on the recording that require other singers are not the same. Instead of Richard White in the role of the doctor’s good friend and attorney and Laird Mackintosh as the bride-to-be’s father, the song “His Work and Nothing More” finds their parts sung by Corey Brunish and Tom Hewitt. “The Girls of the Night” has the voices of Shannon Magrane and Carly Robyn Green, neither of whom are on tour with the show.

Another, significant difference is the sound of the orchestra. The show is traveling with four musicians (two on keyboard plus a guitar and a percussionist) who are joined by seven local musicians for a total of eleven players. These include a woodwind player who handles a flute, an alto flute, a clarinet, a bass clarinet and an oboe. In San Diego, where the tour had its official opening, Jay Mason was the multi-capable player who earned the extra pay that comes with extra instruments.

The recording’s orchestra totals twelve with an extra guitar and two brass players (a trumpet and a trombone) but no woodwind player.

Both have arrangements by Jason Howland, but while he also orchestrated the charts for the recording, the show’s charts are by Kim Scharnberg who handled orchestration duties for the 1990 concept album staring Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder, the 1994 recording of the score with Anthony Warlow, Linda Eder and Carolee Carmello and the 1997 original Broadway production staring Robert Cuccioli, Linda Eder and Christiane Noll.

It is interesting to note the forces available for each of these iterations. In 1990, Scharnberg was writing for (and conducting) as many as 43 string players, five woodwinds and six brass plus harp, keyboard, guitar and percussion. By 1994 it was 21 strings with 16 woodwinds and 11 brass plus percussion. When they reached Broadway they could only use 14 players because there was no room in the Plymouth Theatre for an orchestra pit. They had to place the orchestra on a platform built into the wings as part of the set’s structure.

The difference in sound isn’t simply a function of the number of musicians or the choice of instruments. The balance in the recording is superior to the balance in the theater where the instrumental forces are amplified to the same level as the vocals rather than sitting under them as support. It isn’t a matter of volume, although as is the case in many modern musical productions, the theater does reverberate with high decibel counts. No, it is the balance between vocal and orchestral sound. On the disc, you can appreciate the mix of elements much better than in person.

The disc also allows you to explore portions of the score without some of the damaging distractions in the current production which, as it begins its national tour, is something of an unfocused jumble. The set by Tobin Ost with projections by Daniel Brodie establishes a certain “goth” feel for the production, and has moments of memorable images, but few of the settings or effects help establish location or tell the story. The dark London dive in which the prostitute works is made to look a bit silly with strings running from platform to chairs in a web reference to her pimp’s name, “Spider” (ably played on stage by David Benoit who doubles deliciously as the corrupt Bishop of Basingstoke).

The good doctor’s laboratory is laughably un-scientific and un-functional with bubbling vials that have to be cranked up in order to let their contents flow via gravity into the test subject’s body through tubing that looks like it was snatched from a host of Bunsen burners.

The projections which climax with the “Confrontation” between Jekyll and Hyde tend to draw attention away from the narrative at a crucial moment. On stage, Maroulis sings the Jekyll part of the duet live against his own pre-recorded video of Hyde as “a face in the mirror.” On disc, you can concentrate on his impressive performance without the distraction of videos and projected explosions.

On the other hand, the distinction that Maroulis manages to create between the persona of Dr. Jekyll, a self-controlled and self-contained, buttoned up doctor more comfortable with chemicals than with people, and Mr. Hyde, an unleashed and unrestrained evil force, is dependent on his body language which, of course, is missing from the audio disc. It is a tradeoff, but the audio wins over the live performance in this regard because of the distractions obscuring his vocals in the theater.

Debora Cox, a pop/R&B recording artist of note, has some stage experience. She starred on Broadway in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida as a replacement for Heather Hadley in the title role for six months, back in 2004. Then her acting seemed acceptable but rather mechanical. Here she seems somewhat less comfortable on stage, with some difficulty figuring out how to let her arms stay at her side when her rock-star instinct is to raise hands to the sky as if leading the orchestra from the stage. Teal’s crystalline voice is a good fit for the role of Jekyll’s bride-to-be. Cox and Teal’s duet on “In His Eyes” is, as it was in previous productions, a major thrill.

The recording is of highlights of the score, not the full work. Missing are the big multiple character numbers such as “Facade” which on stage is sung by the members of the Board of Governors of St. Jude’s Hospital and their servants who are dressing them, “The Board of Governors” when they reject Jekyll’s proposition to test his formulas on a human subject, and the second act opener, “Murder,” which has undergone the most involved rewrite from earlier versions. Also missing is Jekyll’s “Transformation” and a number of reprises.

There’s one lovely song on the disc, “No One Knows Who I Am,” which has been cut from the show on stage, and the stage duet between Jekyll and his friend, “The Way Back,” is recorded here as a solo for Jekyll.

Jekyll & Hyde has become one of the more often recorded scores in the cannon of Broadway musicals. It may not match My Fair Lady (the cast album data base – CastAlbumDB.Com – shows 48 versions of that score) or Show Boat (32 versions), but there are more recordings of this score than of most recent Broadway musicals. This is the fifteenth recording that I’m aware of, which does not include the two karaoke albums, the jazz cover album or the DVD of the Broadway production starring David Hasselhoff. The score has been recorded in German, Spanish, Hungarian, Swedish, Dutch, Austrian, Czech, Japanese and Korean.

My own favorite remains the 1994 two-disc concept album with a robust Anthony Warlow, the phenomenal Linda Eder and multi-talented Carolee Carmello on Atlantic. Those looking for a bit more of a raw rock influence might enjoy the 2006 single disc “Jekyll & Hyde Resurrection” on the Global Vision label which finally gave us Rob Evan’s strong performance backed by a hot-lick-guitar-led band using new arrangements by Jeremy Roberts.

The new recording is a satisfying sampling of the score for those who don’t yet know it. It is also a fine souvenir for those who see the touring production and want a keepsake. It doesn’t work as well the other way around, however. If you hear the album first and then attend the touring production, you may well find the experience in the theater a frustrating disappointment.

Major Jekyll & Hyde Recordings:

Original Concept Album (1990)
RCA Victor Catalog 60416-2-RC
ASIN: B000003F05

Complete Work Concept Album (1994)
Atlantic Records Catalog 82723-2
ASIN: B000002J3K

Original Broadway Cast Recording (1997)
Atlantic Records Catalog 82976-2
ASIN: B000002JC2

Jekyll & Hyde Resurrection
Koch Records/Global Vision Catalog KOC-CD-5902

2012 Concept Recording
Broadway Records Catalog BR-DIG00512
ASIN: B008K8G530

October 10, 2012