The dramatic possibilities of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have long been exploited. But a musical? The 1997 Broadway version, opening Pittsburgh CLO's 61st season, offers predictably pleasant if derivative tunes, punctuated by the odd tri- or semitone to portend Something Bad Coming. What Jekyll & Hyde does serve up with excellence, however, is the scenery-chomping feast of the dual title role, filled by Kevin Gray tying himself in admirable knots.
And there is such delectable scenery to chew, mostly portraying the seedy underbelly of late Victorian London. I especially appreciated the evocation of a seedy dockside, lovely with ships' masts, water and stars -- all juxtaposed with the lurking danger.
Director Robert Cuccioli handles the large cast and production deftly and energetically. After all, he originated the title role in the Broadway show (book and lyrics by Leslie Bricuse, music by Frank Wildhorn; originally conceived for the stage by Wildhorn and Steve Cuden in the late 1980s).
Sharing the honors with Gray at the top of the cast is Elizabeth Stanley as the hapless hooker with a heart of gold. She's especially seductive in "Bring on the Men," a number channeling Der blaue Engel via Cabaret. Brynn O'Malley combines charm with a Wildean tongue as Jekyll's good-girl fiancée. Also fun to watch is the towering Tim Hartman as the prospective father-in-law, along with Martin Van Treuren and Suzanne Ishee, who both double up roles as pimp/prostitute and peer/peeress. (And which characters are the nastier?) There's also the versatile Jeff Howell as a variety of victims, villains and bystanders.
Not surprisingly, given the CLO's decades of superb production values, J&K is a treat for the eyes -- notably the self-assembling laboratory set. Kudos to the team of James Noone, scene designer; John R. Edkins, technical supervisor; John McLain, lighting; Lori Berger, associate producing director; Karen Meek, stage manager; and Sean West, production manager.
Now that his work resides in the public domain, Stevenson is not credited in the CLO's Jekyll & Hyde, but we know the story: good, evil, befuddlement, skullduggery, innocence threatened, murder. Good family fun.
Jekyll & Hyde continues through Sun., June 26. Pittsburgh CLO at the Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-456-6666 or www.pittsburghclo.org