March 28, 2017
About twenty years ago, when I first heard that the famed thriller novella (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson) was to be staged as a musical, my initial reaction was, ‘What next?’ I feared the moguls of Broadway might eventually give us a musical comedy version of ‘The Bad Seed,’ for heaven’s sake … just to show that nothing is impossible in the wacky world of show business.
Furthermore, I was convinced that ‘Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical’ would soon find itself on the scrap heap of failed productions that depend solely on the popularity of late 19th century literary works for their success.
How wrong I was. Four years later, the melodramatic ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ was still packing in enthusiastic audiences at New York’s Plymouth theater (a record for that grand old playhouse at the time) and the show finally closed after an impressive 1,543 regular performances! It had garnered four Tony nominations … won in the ‘Best Costumes’ category … and was even more triumphant in the prestigious Drama Desk, and Outer Circle Awards groupings.
Sadly, I never saw the Broadway offering.
The story, of course, is a familiar one … it’s a general analysis of how good and evil can co-exist in the same person … and the production on the Engeman boards now thru April 30 has gambits that smack of Sondheim, Wilde, and Shakespeare … specifically: Sweeney Todd, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Othello.
What the current Engeman show has that those other theatrical creations almost assuredly did not, however, is the most versatile, dynamic, energetic performance that this critic has ever seen! Indeed, any theater aficionados who miss the opportunity to observe Nathaniel Hackman in the demanding dual roles of compassionate Dr. Henry Jekyll and vicious Mr. Edward Hyde, will be depriving themselves of the artistic treat of a lifetime.
Producer Richard Dolce will stage ‘Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical’ at Northport’s delightful Engeman Theater thru April 30th(Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings – with Matinees on Saturday and Sunday). The guess here is that once word gets around about the virtuosity of Mr. Hackman, a majority of those dates will be sold out … just as the matinee was when I attended last Saturday.
In critiques such as this one, it is required that the reviewer support his claims whether they be superlative or disparaging. That said, the critic’s task of reporting on the ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ now under consideration is immediately reduced by half … there is absolutely nothing censorious to say about this polished gem of a show.
Accordingly, we may focus on Mr. Hackman’s considerable skills that made his performance the magical tour de force it became: It goes without saying that this play requires deep insight into the nature good and evil … particularly as they occupy the body of a single individual simultaneously (this, after all, is the plot in a nutshell). In that regard, Nathaniel Hackman immediately makes gasping believers of his audience despite the improbable nature of the proposition.
Then there is the matter of the remarkable lead actor’s singing voice. The man’s appealing baritone is quite simply top-notch. I never heard him miss a single note or beat in two hours. As for his stage presence … Hackman owned the Engeman boards with every step he took, whether as the romantic Dr. Jekyll or the threatening Mr. Hyde.
It would be unfair to reveal much of the detail about the special effects that Director / Choreographer Paul Stancato and Lighting Designer Keith Truax have in store for audiences during the forthcoming month. Suffice it to say that both impresarios combine to take full advantage of Hackman’s energetic skills, and together the trio creates an absolutely unforgettable climactic light show that theatergoers will be talking about for generations.
If that sounds like hyperbole … go see for yourself. Like everyone else in the grand Engeman Theater (including Nathaniel Hackman’s accomplished fellow actors) you’ll stand and cheer this wonderfully gifted artist off the stage.