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'Jekyll and Hyde' musical opens big with enthusiastic audience

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'Jekyll & Hyde' by She and Her Productions

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Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic story of good vs. evil, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” adapted well to the musical version, Jekyll and Hyde which opened Friday night, Feb. 28 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre in midtown Kansas City, MO with a limited run on weekends from Feb. 28-March 16.

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Phantom of the Opera, even though dark and scary in nature turned into a mega-hit on the stage as a musical, so why not Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic novella, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde” following? The musical version, Jekyll and Hyde did just that, but not with the same Broadway success and now Kansas City audiences can see the show, locally produced by She and Her Productions and directed my co-founder, Tiffany Schweigert.

She & Her Productions launched their version of the Stevenson classic that comes from the conceptual ideas of Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn. Schweigert directs Jekyll and Hyde along with musical director, Jim Vinkenberg. The music is by Wildhorn and the lyrics and book for the musical tragedy are by Leslie Bricusse. The score features several known songs and memorable choreography. Choreography, come from the talented mind of Leah Swank Miller.

“I'm just blessed to work with such a talented and hardworking group of people,” Schweigert said. “Moving into a theater on Monday and going up on Friday calls for lots of focus and dedication.”

Jekyll and Hyde is only going to get better. The actors will continue to grow and build on their characters and relationships on stage,” she said.

Strong acting and characterization set the tone for the current day London concept of the show. By setting the show in current time, period costumes are not needed and do not get in the way of good solid acting performances by the leads, specifically Alex Bigus, Katie Meador, and Kelsie Clark. All three possess very strong vocals and their stage presence stands out from the ensemble cast. Each of the three command the stage when they are speaking and keep the audience focused on them and their characters.

Bigus draws the most attention because he is onstage almost the entire show because he is both incarnations of good and evil as the kindly Dr. Henry Jekyll and the sinister, murderous Edward Hyde. He controls the action of the Jekyll and Hyde, and any weakness in his character would cause a major flaw in the appreciation of the show.

Jekyll’s love interest comes to life via Katie Meador. Her blonde hair, bright soprano voice, small stature and wholesome look make her the perfect ingenue for Jekyll and Hyde . She possesses strong acting skills and is pitch-perfect throughout.

As the “other woman,” Kelsie Clark plays the prostitute with a heart of gold to the max. Her Lucy is strong, vibrant, dark, sexy, alluring, and poignant. She’s bound to a sad life, but allows her vulnerability to show through. Clark plays the part with confidence and gives audiences a reason to stand up and notice her.

Several of the supporting parts also stand out. Those supporting parts come from Chris Gleason, Andy Perkins, Dennis Maddux, Vicki Kerns, and Ray Zarr. Although their parts are not large, they show great acting in movement, dialog delivery, facial expression and stage presence. All deserve recognition of making Jekyll and Hyde a success.

According to Schweigert, the run of Jekyll and Hyde is gaining a lot of support as evidenced by audience reaction, box office receipts, and audience comments. She said she expects the show to grow and tighten by next week, now that the opening night jitters are gone.

Jekyll and Hyde is worth seeing and a great family outing. Unlike so many current shows, the content for Jekyll and Hyde is appropriate for all age levels. Even early elementary students will understand and like the show. Jekyll and Hyde is a great story and told in a family-friend context. Although the story revolves around Mr Hyde’s murderous spree, no blood or guts will scare audiences. Jekyll and Hyde comes with the highest recommendations.

Following a world premiere run in Houston, Texas Jekyll and Hyde embarked on a national tour of the United States prior to its Broadway debut in 1997. Jekyll and Hyde opened at the Plymouth Theater on Broadway and ran for more than 1,500 performances, a record long-run for the Plymouth Theater.

On Broadway, Jekyll and Hyde grabbed four Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical - Book by Leslie Bricusse. Best Actor in a Musical, Best Costume Design, and Best Lighting Design, but failed to bring home the coveted award. The musical did fare better with one Theater World Award, and two Drama Desk Awards out of three nominations.

Bricusse rose to fame with several musicals and collaborations. He is often associated with stage star, Anthony Newley. Some of Bricusse’s more famous songs from musicals and movies include: "What Kind of Fool Am I?" "Who Can I Turn To, " "Feeling Good, " "Goldfinger," "A Guide for the Married Man," "You Only Live Twice," "Talk to the Animals," "Candy Man," and "Pure Imagination."

For the Kansas City production by She and Her, the cast is: Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Alex Bigus; Emma Carew, Katie Meador; Lucy Harris, Kelsie Clark; John Utterson, Chris Gleeson; Simon Stride, Andy Perkins; Sir Danvers Carew, Dennis Maddux; Nellie Manageress “The Red Rat”, Vicki Kerns; The Bishop of Basingstoke, Ray Zarr; Lord Savage/Spider, Taylor Bottles; Lady Beaconsfield, Joy Richardson; Sir Archibald Proops, Trenton Bottles; General Lord Glossop. Richard J. Burt. Ensemble includes: Miles Wirth, Ali Watson, Zachery Phillips, Emmy Hadley, Christoph Cording, Legna Cedillo, Shannon Buhler, Rachel Adcock, Katherine Ruprecht, Nicole Santorella, Megan Hill, John Van De Voort.

“My stage manager is amazing. I am really happy to work with my creative team, Nicole Brewer, light designer; Kevin Verhoff, scenic designer; Doug Schroeder; sounds design, Brendan Kerr; props, Amanda Rhodes, accompanist, Debbie Goddard; and, of course, music director Jim Vinkenberg, choreographer Leah Swank-Miller and acting coach Jennifer Coville-Schweigert” Schweigert said.

The creative crew is: director, Tiffany Schweigert; music director, Jim Vinkenberg; stage manager, Nicole Brewer; choreographer, Leah Swank Miller; accompanist, Debbie Goddard; props/ASM, Amanda Rhodes; scenic design, Doug Schroeder; light design, Kevin Verhoff; sound design, Brendan Kerr; costume design, Jennifer Coville-Schweigert; poster design, Jason Smith; program design, and Clinton Schell.

The pit orchestra includes: Shari Kinder, flute; Amy Schwartz, oboe and English horn; Holly Hague, clarinet; Mike Hicks, bass clarinet; Jim Vinkenberg, alto saxophone; Erik Hulse, trumpet; Debbie Goddard, keyboard 1; Pamela Klifer, keyboard 2; Gordon Case, and percussion.

Performances begin at 8p.m. evenings and at 2p.m. for Sunday matinees, Schweigert said. Performance dates: Feb. 28, March 1, 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, and 16; Sun., March 16 at 2p.m. Tickets prices range from 12-$18. For tickets call: 816.784.5020 or purchase online at: www.brownpapertickets.com/ref/81046/event. More information is available at: www.sheandherproductions.com.

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