Its a musical about the essential duality of human beings. Its a feminist manifesto in disguise. Its a steampunk statement about soulless society. Its full of sex, or is it full of heart? Its rock n roll except when it isnt, exactly. Its a work in progress en route to a Broadway run next spring.
In fact, the only thing we can be sure this show is not, according to star Constantine Maroulis, is your grandfathers Jekyll & Hyde. By which he means not Robert Louis Stevensons 1886 novella but the tunefest that closed on Broadway 11 years ago.
The touring version that opens the Broadway Lights Series Tuesday will still have songs by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse, including two new numbers: I Need to Know for the doctor, and Bring on the Men for Lucy, the prostitute drawn to both sides of his split personality.
But neither Maroulis nor Deborah Cox (who plays Lucy) nor director Jeff Calhoun saw the 1997 production, which critics mainly scorned but audiences embraced during a four-year run. (Obsessive fans were dubbed Jekkies, a la Trekkies.)
Im looking at this as a completely new piece, like Im originating a role, says Cox. The instrumentation has been tailor-made for myself and Constantine. His new song is about the struggle to find some cure for his father; you feel for his character in a way that wasnt there before.
I see Lucy as strong, extremely vulnerable, overtly sexy because of being a prostitute but a fighter, a survivor whose way of survival is to find the comedy in life. Shes from the streets, and the streets are rough, whether youre in London or America or anywhere in the world.
If you know only the novella, you may be thinking, Who in blazes is Lucy? The only woman in the book was a maid who saw an old man murdered. And what was that about curing Jekylls father?
Wildhorn and Bricusse didnt want a hero who selfishly fooled around in the lab, so they made him a researcher seeking a cure for his dads dementia. Jekyll now has a fiancée in Emma, a doctors daughter, and an admirer in Lucy, whos also drawn to the vicious but charismatic Hyde.
That would be the Hyde who slays seven people, yes?
Im still trying to figure out whether Hyde is a tragic figure or not, says Maroulis. Thats a conversation we could have weeks from now or years from now. This show elicits those conversations from the audience: I got into one with a group of bright kids, girls who were just so articulate, and they were fascinated by the duality of man. Thats (a topic) for all ages.
This production aims to shatter preconceptions in multiple ways. Set and costume designer Tobin Ost has jettisoned typical Broadway grandeur for a lean steampunk look, combining Victorian-era styles with modern mechanistic designs. Calhoun, a Tony nominee this year for Newsies, has increased the pace of the show.
Cox let go of the style that made her one of the top R&B singers of her native Canada. Instead, shes stretching musical muscles from her last Broadway gig: playing the title role in Broadways Aida for six months in 2004.
All singing is a kind of storytelling, she says. I have always wanted to have a career as an actress and do musical theater. A recording career is lucrative and has all kinds of perks, but Jekyll & Hyde fills in the creative gaps that arent filled by the recording career.
Lucys completely different from me. (The married Cox has three kids.) Her overt sexiness is always an adjustment, and Im WAAAAY out of my comfort zone. So if the audience walks away feeling something, thats a triumph.
The conservatory-trained Maroulis has theatrical chops: He toured in the leading role of Roger in Rent, took over a supporting role in The Wedding Singer on Broadway, then earned a 2009 Tony nomination for playing a would-be pop star in Rock of Ages.
But in mainstream America, through which the Jekyll tour will pass for six months before reaching Broadway, hes probably that big-voiced tenor whose eyes burned and whose tresses seemed to blow out behind him on the 2005 American Idol. (He finished sixth.) I voted for you, man! shouted an autograph hunter during our phone interview. Not often enough, apparently, Maroulis said wryly after signing.
I grew up with a taste for darker music, for darker characters in cinema and comic books, he says. People have gotten to know me as someone who does popular music and television notably the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful in 2007 but Ive always had a sense of what the dark Gothic world was like.
When I tell people Im touring in Jekyll & Hyde, they say, Oh, yeah, Constantine the voice, the hair, the eyes, I get what thats about. I just say, Come see the show, and keep an open mind.