'Tis the season for fright! You know it must be October when a look at Boise's live theater scene reveals no less than three Halloween-themed productions competing for your screams. Spontaneous Productions is back with its fifth outing of Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show, while Boise Contemporary Theater brings Bram Stoker's Dracula to life.
The third--Jekyll & Hyde--is particularly noteworthy because it marks the 175th production for Stage Coach Theatre and is the company's first musical venture in several years.
Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, Jekyll & Hyde tells the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Gregg Irwin), a brilliant scientist living in late 19th century London. While searching for a cure for his mentally ill father, Jekyll injects himself with a formula that transforms him into the murderous Edward Hyde.
Hyde embarks on a killing spree, starting with most of the board of governors who refused to sanction Jekyll's research. As his personality gradually overwhelms Jekyll's, Hyde finds pleasure in the company of a young prostitute named Lucy (Angela Simitzes), who desperately seeks escape from her own doomed life.
It's an easy, compelling story to follow and director Rick Hoover wisely decided not to distract the audience with too many props or set changes, instead opting for a simple, raised, red platform in the center of the stage where much of the action takes place. Occasional chairs, a bed and a few desks and test tubes for Jekyll's lab come and go, but otherwise the stage is bare, which is not a bad thing when you have 25 cast members coming and going.
Dress rehearsal night showed the cast in fine form and ready for the production's four-week run--particularly Irwin, who some theater goers may recognize from last season's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at CAN-ACT. Irwin effectively conveys the desperation, determination and occasional humor of Jekyll, as well as the frightening horror that is Hyde.
Simitzes, who was a delight as the villainous Lenya in Hoover's Bullshot Crummond last year, is a welcome treat as Lucy. Simitzes not only captures the character's strengths and vulnerabilities with ease, she's a fine singer to boot. Her "Bring on the Men" is a hoot--a fun, well-choreographed romp she sings with most of the female ensemble, collectively called The Red Rat Girls.
Simitzes shares another strong number, "In His Eyes," with the show's other female lead, Kelliey Chavez, who does a nice turn as Jekyll's supportive and concerned fiancée Emma Carew. Chavez, too, is blessed with a strong voice, at its best here during the remorseful "Once Upon a Dream."
Among the supporting players, notables include Grant Schoeneweis as Jekyll's loyal friend John and Frederic Webb as Emma's doting father Sir Danvers.
Several actors pop up in smaller roles throughout the play and a few deserve mention for their ability to contribute nicely to the production without distracting attention from the main cast--Tom Poremba, most visible as Jekyll's manservant Poole, Wanda Webb as a prostitute called Nellie, and Jose Alonzo as a priest and the only male dancer in "Bring on the Men."
Jekyll & Hyde--The Musical
Books and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse,
music by Frank Wildhorn
Directed by Rick Hoover
Oct. 14 to 17, 21 to 24, 28 to 30
Stage Coach Theatre, Hillcrest Shopping
Center, Overland and Orchard
More info/tickets: 342-2000