Jekyll & Hyde a perfect accompaniment to Colorscape

There’s so much to do during the day at Colorscape Chenango that sometimes the nights seem a bit anticlimactic. To combat that, the Afton Community Theatre is presenting a “revival” of its May performance of “Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical” tonight and Saturday at the Chenango County Council of the Arts theater in Norwich.

As obsessed with vampires in popular culture as we seem to be, “Jekyll & Hyde” seems perfectly poised to tap into that zeitgeist. While there are no fangs bared, of course, “Jekyll” evokes that similar story thread of falling in love with someone who appears to be one thing, but is hiding something completely different – something that’s at the same time terrifying and alluring.

That duality of nature is exactly what consumes Dr. Henry Jekyll (Mike Gray), a researcher in 19th century London. Based on the famed Robert Louis Stevenson novel, “Jekyll” follows the good doctor’s quest to chemically separate man’s split personality – to separate the good from the evil. When his experiments are derided and rejected by a snooty hospital board (including the delightfully haughty Lady Beaconsfield, played by Teresa Sears), Jekyll decides to become his own guinea pig. Injecting himself with his risky serum, Jekyll finds himself transformed into a maniacal representation of his dark side, whom he christens “Edward Hyde.”

I think it’s safe to say that we all know how that turns out.

The story is a fascinating discourse on the nature of good versus evil, as Dr. Jekyll tries desperately to maintain his facade with fiancee Emma (Lori Koblanski) while Mr. Hyde romances (well, brutalizes, to be more precise) burlesque dancer Lucy (Amanda Perrino). As a series of grizzly murders rocks uppercrust London, things close in on Mr. Hyde while Dr. Jekyll battles for control of his soul.

The cool thing about the musical adaptation, which had a good Broadway run that ended a decade ago (with David Hasselhoff, no less), is that it takes Stevenson’s sometimes heavy-handed commentary and turns it into song – in particular, “Facade” and its reprises. There are quite a few catchy numbers in “Jekyll & Hyde.” As I left a dress rehearsal preview last night, I couldn’t get “Murder, Murder” out of my head. Which, sans punctuation, is often how I feel when I get out of work, but I digress.

Uh oh, maybe this split personality thing is catching.

What’s certainly catching is the high energy and entertainment provided by the Afton Community Theatre company. After a successful run of the musical in May at Afton’s high school, the troupe (supported by the Schimmerling Law Offices) decided to reach out to a different audience in Norwich, and picked the perfect weekend with Colorscape Chenango. I’m often familiar with the community theater talent in these parts; it was a joy to discover new favorites among our neighbors to the south. Many of the performers in this weekend’s show are also members of the Tri-Town Theater and the Out of the Woodwork Players.

In the title role, Michael Gray commands attention as the tortured Dr. Jekyll, and even more so as the fearsome Hyde. His rich, deep voice lends power to his character as he struggles with his two sides. As hooker with a heart of gold Lucy, Amanda Perrino is a revelation. Too bad she’s from Vestal – I’d love to see her in more roles up this way. She (and the ensemble) particularly kill it (pardon the expression) with “Bring on the Men.”

Performances of “Jekyll and Hyde, The Musical” are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 at the Martin W. Kappel Theater, 27 W. Main St. in Norwich. Tickets, available in advance or at the door, are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. With all the art in Norwich this weekend – visual, culinary, literary and musical – this show is the perfect accompaniment.

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