Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 7, 2010

Jekyll & Hyde

Exit 7 Players, Ludlow, MA
through November 14, 2010
by Shera Cohen

It is nearly impossible for anyone who has ever seen "Jekyll & Hyde" (J&H) to leave the theatre without singing or humming the showstopper song "This Is the Moment." In the case of Exit 7's presentation, the song title literally describes the success of the production and the entire troupe. Ever since "Big River" (1995), the work of those onstage and backstage has continued to go upstream, sometimes against the tide of what many might expect from amateur theatre.

J&H is a musical rarely performed even by professional troupes, as it is extremely difficult for the actor in the lead role. Yet, Exit 7 tackles this musical head on. Audience members were heard saying, "This is better than Broadway." Save for a large orchestra (instead of Exit 7's excellent six-piece band) and expensive sets (Exit 7's furnishings worked well, particularly with backdrop slides), the comparison between NYC and Ludlow is not a stretch.

Everyone knows the story of J&H - one man, both good and evil. But there is more to the story. The plot extensively details the motivation in this character and the dichotomy of the components that make a man whole.  J&H is a disturbing play with exquisite music and important lyrics - somewhat opera-like.

Kim Lynch seems to have had an easy job directing, as well as Alison Forance choreographing, but only because their cast is perfect. From the kids in the chorus to the Red Rat dancers, those with secondary roles (each well defining his/her character) to the leads, it is difficult to find a single flaw.

Reams of accolades can be written about J&H's star, Ben Ashley. This, too, is the best moment in his career as an actor and singer. The difficulty of switching from Jekyll to Hyde and back again within seconds of each other could have easily become comic. Not so here. These are the tensest moments in the production. Augmenting Ashley's brilliance are Melissa Dupont and Katie Clark, in his duets with each, and their, "In His Eyes," is lush.

The weekend of November 12th is your moment to see "Jekyll & Hyde."