Nottingham MedSoc’s production of Jekyll and Hyde the Musical, based on the original novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, has been timely shown this Halloween at The Nottingham Arts Theatre. The tale charts the scientific pursuit of Henry Jekyll in curing the dual personality which inflicts mankind. He believes the counteracting forces of good and evil combine in man and create ‘twisted souls’ which can be rectified through separating the evil from the good. Having had his experimental schemes rejected by the board of governors for the hospital, he has no option but to test his formula on himself.
The production did credit to the notorious assiduousness of the Medics as a student body, and the long fourteen weeks they spent working on it. Effort oozed out of every note sung. Although the strength in the production did lie in the vocals rather than the acting, in putting on a musical with as many big numbers as are in this one, it’s only right that the main focus should be on the musical side of the performance. The vocals were startlingly impressive and I was surprised to learn that Nirmalan (who played Jekyll) was new to the scene. His voice was controlled and polished throughout his numerous belting numbers.
The female vocalists were less strong, yet equally artistically gifted. Trowsdale-Stannard’s warm and sultry alto tones were a welcome change to the higher-pitched delicacy of Eastham’s vocals. Though a self-confessed ‘choir girl’, Trowsdale-Stannard (Lucy) could have done with a sprinkling of added sass in her performance during the vibrant and full-bodied rendition of “Bring on the Men”. However, her musical expression was faultless. I do hope that the infamously wild, party-hard medics are taking it easy this Halloween week for the sake of those exceptional vocals.
“The production did credit to the notorious assiduousness of the Medics as a student body”
In his portrayal of the evil Hyde, Firth actually managed to succeed in making wailing and shrieking sound good. His dramatic expression was the most evocative of all, and it was most evident to see the fun he was having in his performance. Firth’s speech impediment (feigned or otherwise) gave his voice the lingering ring of Kaa, the snake in the jungle book; lending itself nicely to the villainous character of Hyde. Combined with the deep bass tones of his voice, Firth was a strong presence on stage, and his evil laugh gave me shivers, for what reason I wasn’t quite sure…
Firth also used his space well, although this may be attributed to the rampaging, manic nature which possesses his character after the transformation. For me, this was a refreshing contrast to the static presence of Nirmalan during his repeated, yearning, sung soliloquies which were a bit too soppy for my tastes.
“The Medics pack a punch to deliver a production of high drama, high volume, and high voltage”
The positioning of the orchestra behind and above the stage seemed to work perfectly, giving the vocalists the best support possible and producing a polished, professional sound. The use of strings served to evoke that seedy, Victorian London brothel feeling. In fact, almost the entire production was authentically period, apart from the contemporary dancing during ‘Once upon a dream’. This didn’t fit with the overall image of the production and I was left slightly confused. However, the mist used as a shrouding, dramatic device here, served as a very convincing London smog.
Overall, despite having made me feel slightly guilty and a little bit unclean for developing a crush on the only murderous character in the production, Jekyll and Hyde was an immensely successful adaptation made up of a cast full of surprises which continued to reveal themselves throughout. The principle characters got a good dose of uproarious laughter from an audience of Medics who even took interval drinks to a new level. The whole experience was fun and hugely enjoyable. Jekyll and Hyde is not a musical in the normal sense of the word. It’s not a musical for the faint hearted. The Medics pack a punch to deliver a production of high drama, high volume, and high voltage.
Jekyll and Hyde the Musical is running at The Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 31st October 2015, for more information see here.