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'Jekyll & Hyde The Musical' opens Friday at Eastlight

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Perhaps the most famous fictional story about split personalities takes the stage at Eastlight Theatre on Friday in the form of "Jekyll & Hyde The Musical."

The musical, which expands on the well-known novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson and published in 1886, blends the horror and mystery of that story with rich music and lyrics from Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden to give audiences "a theatre experience that really is unique," said Chip Joyce, who directs the Eastlight production.

"Jekyll & Hyde" opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. at East Peoria High School's Byron Moore Auditorium. It continues at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at 2 p.m. on Sunday and at 7:30 p.m. on June 26, 27, 28 and 29.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $17 for senior and college students and $14 for high school students and younger. They can be purchased at the Eastlight box office in the Festival of Lights Building, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, by calling the box office at 699-7469 or online at www.eastlighttheatre.com. Note that only adult tickets can be purchased online and the cost is $19.

Joyce said it was the uniqueness of the show that drew him to it. "I wanted to do it because it is different from any show I've done before and really, there is no other show quite like it. With the Gothic horror and dark undertones the closest to it would probably be 'Sweeney Todd.' The last time 'Jekyll & Hyde' was done in Peoria was in June 2001 at Eastlight," he said.

Not only is the story unique, he added, the show has unique challenges. That starts with
"a very challenging musical score. It's very much a singer's show."

But even more of a challenge "is making it believable, getting the audience to buy into the whole thing. Getting an audience to be emotionally invested," he said.

Those familiar with the story know Dr. Jekyll transforms into his evil personality, Mr. Hyde, and the combat between good and evil is played out within that conflict. In the myriad film versions of the story it was simple to complete the transformation with makeup; that isn't possible on a live stage, Joyce said.

"It is done very theatrically. We can't do it with the help of makeup, obviously, so it is done strictly physically and vocally," he said.

Jarod Hazzard, a veteran of many shows on Peoria-area stages, tackles the dual roles of Jekyll and Hyde and Joyce said his performance will only enhance his reputation as an actor and singer.

Other top characters in the musical include the love interests of each of Dr. Jekyll's personalities. Each woman is as different from the other as Hyde is from Jekyll. Emma is Jekyll's love interest and she is portrayed at Eastlight by River Stanford, doing her first show in Peoria in many years, Joyce said.

Hyde's love is the down-on-her-luck prostitute named Lucy, played by Julia Myers.

The cast is 28 people and Joyce said it's a good mix of area theatre veterans and newcomers.

The orchestra is directed by Laura Weaver Hughes and Nikki Wheeler costumed the show.

Joyce said "Jekyll & Hyde the Musical" was not on his radar as a show he wanted to do before it was offered to him by Eastlight. "But once I started looking at it and thinking about the possibilities, I fell pretty fast and hard for it. It is a quality show and I knew it was one that quality people would want to do," he said.

"It has a lot of great mystery and suspense and I think people will really like it."

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).