Two sides of the same coin with ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

Grant Spathis, Staff Writer

Stories of good and evil battling for control are as old as time. Humanity is deeply invested in stories reinforcing our perceptions of our moral standing. From its outset, “Jekyll & Hyde, adapted by director Sasha Gerritson and conductor Christopher Owen for NEIU, plays as if it will follow that same pattern. However, this story has far from a happy ending, even if the musical version staged at NEIU is as close to a Disney-fied version as we are likely to get.

Having attended the staging of the play on April 8, I was only able to see half of the leading cast, as there was a split cast for the four showings of the play.

At its core, “Jekyll & Hyde” is a dark tale, and Brennan Roach imbued the tale with moments of levity, highlighting some of the absurdist elements at the heart of the play. This was buoyed by the dramatically campy performances of Jeremy Cairns as The Bishop of Basingstroke and Zanetta Kubajak as Lady Beaconsfield, two deeply hypocritical characters, and the two leaned into these hypocrisies with abandon to create truly unique takes on their characters.  

From a production standpoint, the minimalist stage design allowed for lots of subtle shifts. This allowed the team to create atmospheres that felt distinct for each setting. Using the large space offered by the NEIU Auditorium gave scenic designer Kay Lea Meyers the opportunity to craft brooding and sometimes overwhelming sets, specific for the tenor of each scene. This effect was amplified by the lighting, which reflected the opposing personalities of the two sides at war at the heart of “Jekyll & Hyde.”

The two female leads helped to wonderfully showcase the dichotomy of Dr. Jekyll. Emma Carew (Emma Oberdick) was the paragon of virtue, engaged and leading Jekyll down the path of righteousness. This was obvious in her costume design, which were primarily whites and light blues.

In stark contrast was the woman Jekyll was drawn to as he descended. Lucy Harris (Jessica Lauren Fischer) is the introduction to the dark side that changes Jekyll forever. As a prostitute, her status as the woman who drives Jekyll into becoming Hyde is never in question. During the duet between Fisher and Oberdick, ”In His Eyes”, both women shined, showcasing their vocal range. The differences between the women were made clear in their presences on the stage, as Fischer was confident in strutting across the stage, while  Oberdick seemed to float above the fray.

In representing the two sides of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Brennan Roach was presented with a very difficult task, but he was more than up to the task. He attacked each role with much different body language, seemingly changing his figure, from the proud and polished Jekyll, to the monstrous and menacing Hyde. Alongside his vocal performances in the songs was wonderful, particular “Transformation”, following the first time Jekyll embraces his inner evil.

“Jekyll & Hyde,” is a classic tale, and was revived at the NEIU Auditorium with great success. The limited run ended on April 8, but those who were lucky enough to see it saw a lively and fun show, highlighted by its embrace of the campy aspect of the musical, while also being unafraid to dive into the dark core of the story itself. Taken altogether, this was a rendition worthy of the classic story.