Excellent cast and a stunning stage help conjure the dark mystery of a classic tale of good and evil

Robert Louis Stevenson penned his disturbing gothic tale of a London doctor who transforms himself into an evil lunatic as a study about the good and evil that resides in all of us. The stark characterizations of the title character(s) make for good theatre, and a 1997 musical version now playing at northern Colorado’s Candlelight Dinner Playhouse reminds us of the staying power of the powerful 1886 novella.

It’s the kind of big show Candlelight does well, and the dark, cold days of winter make for a perfect backdrop to this loosely based adaptation of Stevenson’s original story.

Dr. Jekyll, skillfully played by Scott Hurst, is certain he can isolate whatever it is that makes all of us evil. The musical opens with Jekyll and his confidante, Gabriel John Utterson (Lars Preece), discussing his work, all while the doctor’s father writhes and jerks confined by straps to a hospital bed. Indeed, it is his father’s ailment and subsequent death that serves as the catalyst for Jekyll’s catastrophic experiment. Having been denied permission to perform his experiments on test subjects, Jekyll decides that he will be the subject of his own experiment — with predictably disastrous results.

And that is where the horror and terror begin. Dr. Jekyll seals himself up in his laboratory much to the dismay of his fiancée (Katie Jackson) and her father’s (Kent Sugg). There he takes the first dose of his chemical concoction and, at the stroke of midnight, he is transformed into the fiendish Mr. Hyde.

London is not safe. An evil madman is on the loose. Hurst convincingly transitions from Jekyll to Hyde and the audience has no doubt about who is who. Jekyll is reserved, composed, delicate, while Hyde is monster-like, hunched over, fingers snarled, speaking nearly in grunts.

Atop the horror drama, there’s also a love story (it is, after all, a musical). Indeed, Jekyll has two love interests: his fiancée, Emma Carew, and Lucy Harris (Susanna Ballenski Houdesheldt) a prostitute he meets on his bachelor night right before his experiment. We watch as both women are confused and saddened by Jekyll (and Hyde’s) erratic behavior.

Scott Hurst as Jekyll, in his lab. Photo: RDG Photography

A dark musical

Leslie Bricusse wrote the book for Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical, with music by Frank Wildhorn. It showcases such pop rock hits as “This is the Moment,” masterfully sang by Hurst before he begins his experiment. Another standout is “In His Eyes,” performed as a sort of duet between Jekyll’s two love interests as they begin to doubt and question his behavior. Here, the voices of Jackson and Houdesheldt working beautifully together. Also memorable is “Once Upon a Dream,” sung by Jackson upon discovering her fiance’s lab notes and remembering what the two of them used to dream of.

Photo: RDG Photography

The horror and the drama and the beautiful musical numbers all mix together with the dark elaborate costumes and the intricate sets on the stage to make this musical feel like a true Broadway show. There’s smoke and screens behind which the murder victims dance and die. There’s Jekyll’s laboratory hidden behind the façade of the street, with tubes and neon lights flashing as the doctor performs his grim work.

The costumes are all dark maroon, crimson, purple and black to portray the sinister nature of the musical and specifically of Hyde as he terrorizes the city. Set in the Victorian period, we see the women in corsets, petticoats, crinoline and bustles with their long skirts. The men are decked out in fine suits, waistcoats and top hats.

Combining the incredible voices, darkly detailed costumes and the eerie glow of the lights and fog on stage as the actors walk the streets London, The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse has another strong production up that’s well worth checking out.