As the autumn leaves begin to fall, and the nights draw in there are few plans better than spending an evening enveloped within the warm glow of the theatre. Halloween is just around the corner, and with that in mind something spine tingingly sinister is on the menu. Enter Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust (BOST) with their presentation of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Written in 1886, Stevenson’s macabre novella is a classic tale of mans eternal struggle between good and evil. Thought by many to be one of the greatest gothic tales ever written, late October is the perfect time to indulge in some delectable horror.
The dual roles of Jekyll and Hyde are confidently portrayed by Chris Simmons. Expertly tackling such vocally demanding performances takes real skill, and Simmons is a delight to watch. His voice holds so much power that it feels as though he could scarcely play a more perfect role. As Dr Jekyll he elicits our complete sympathy as he is consumed by the evil of Mr Hyde. His time on stage is always captivating, none more so than during the moments when he wrestles against the inner demon that ultimately claims him. With such a role it would be forgivable to steal every scene, yet thankfully there is much more on offer throughout BOST’s production.
Linzi Stefanov is flawless in her role as Lucy, a poor tavern girl who fate delivers into the path of Jekyll, and then later Hyde. Stefanov gave a blistering performance of every single song she delivers, and was more than deserving of the applause her moments on stage received. There is a fragility to her portrayal that is as heart breaking, as it is commanding. Her duet with Hyde is particularly memorable.
Director Elsie Kelly has embarked on an ambitious project in bringing the world of Jekyll and Hyde to life. The production boasts fantastic costume and set design, and effortlessly transports us into another time and space. There is competent work from the chorus, who shine especially bright in the second acts performance of Murder Murder.
With such a rich multi layered story there are bound to be a few teething problems, and they make themselves known with minor sound and lighting issues. There are also moments when it feels as though the story could be sped along a little, but on the whole this is a wonderful production from a company that shows real passion and heart.