Pittsburgh Musical Theater kicked off their 25th anniversary season with a conservatory-lead production of the famed horror drama musical, Jekyll and Hyde. The story follows Dr. Henry Jekyll as he fights public approval to create a formula to separate evil tendencies from the human personality. While his intentions were noble, the execution of the plan goes awry and leads to an untimely series of catastrophic events.
As with any-student run production, one would expect some holes in the armor, proverbial cracks in the veil that separates the pros from the kids. On opening night, there simply were none. Aside from some pitchy moments, as to be expected from a production with such a big vocal workload, the cast was flawless in every way. As I sat in the crowd, gauging the audience’s reaction, toward the end, one person in tears at the sheer magnitude of what has just been accomplished, it was crystal clear, something went very right on that night.
Something struck a chord throughout the theater, and for a couple of hours, they weren’t kids, they were owning the stage, and then some.
Jennifer Lybarger, who served as director, did a masterful job at producing an absolute world-class show.
The CAPA orchestra, conducted by Bernard Black, didn’t miss a beat, and offered a unique dynamic to the performance.
Nick Cortazzo as Jekyll and Hyde commands the audience. His rangy vocals provided depth of character, eliciting sympathy and empathy for the tortured soul Jekyll had become. Inspired in spirit, the troubled doctor ultimately falls prey to his lineage. Cortazzo provides the audience with pure electricity, sucking them into each number, and offering simplistic rage and unabashed enthusiasm. He was crisp.
Elena Doyno as Emma delighted every auditory nerve. In my opinion, one of the great young voices in this city, she wields a soulful lower register and angelic falsetto. Her depiction of the strong-willed, yet submissive partner of Dr. Jekyll, filled the theater with whimsy. Doyno embodied Emma’s persnickety nature with ease, as her strength and fortitude was tested through the turmoil she faced. A robust vocal characterization.
Sabina May as Lucy provided a quirky, yet intimate portrait into the misaligned muse of a harlot. By far one the most vocally taxing roles in the production, May rose to the occasion in a big way and found her voice throughout each number. And at the end of the night, brought on the men.
Another bright spot was the set design, lighting, and wardrobe. The set was seamless and provided a very legitimate representation for the audience. Lighting was moody, adding to the tragic effect of Jekyll’s precocious predicament. The outfits were extremely well-polished, contributing to the overall authentic look of the time period. It is one of the best sets PMT has created.
As the show rolled on, the cast seemed to gain momentum, pushing out their energy to the crowd, and the crowd gave it right back.
Afterwards, I managed to catch some of the performers leaving, and overheard a young lady saying, “well, I have to get up at 5:30am for school, off to bed.” And it hit me, we all seem to forget that these are kids on stage. Homework, more homework, drama, and then and extra side of drama…And then they come to theater rehearsal, the most drama free place on the planet…yep.
All of this, and most can’t drive. All of this, and they’re still thinking about homecoming and prom. All of this inspiration and talent from a collective group of young adults who forego the average life of a kid, they dedicate and practice, and practice more and more and more, in exchange for a chance to stand on stage and express themselves through the magnificent connectivity we call theater.
Congrats to the entire cast and crew, bravo. Jekyll and Hyde continues through October 23rd. Visit Pittsburgh Musical Theater for more information.
Photos by Julie Kahlbaugh