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Draper Journal

Draper Historic Theatre’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ examines the human capacity for good and evil

May 08, 2023 08:40AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Dr. Jekyll (Tanner Tate), defends the nightclub singer and prostitute Lucy (Rachel Olson) from her menacing boss, Spider (Bradley Barker) in the Draper Historic Theatre production of “Jekyll & Hyde.” (Photo courtesy of Draper Historic Theatre)

The original concept for the 1886 novella, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" came to the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson in a nightmare. In the story, Dr. Jekyll's chemical experiments lead to the discovery of a potion which transforms him into the murderous monster, Mr. Hyde.

Stevenson's exploration of the capacity for evil that lurks in the human psyche was a sensation and it was immediately turned into a stage play. Draper Historic Theatre will present the 1990 musical version, "Jekyll & Hyde" starting May 8 through 27.

Director Melissa Van Dam explained that the main theme of the show is duality. "It's putting a microscope on good and evil and how they are present in all of us," she said. "Each character has that duality, not just Jekyll."

The music for “Jekyll & Hyde” was written by Frank Wildhorn, with the book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Steve Cuden. The musical builds on the plot of Stevenson's novella. It adds characters such as Lucy, a nightclub performer and prostitute. Taylore Cahoon, one of the actors who plays Lucy explained, “She loves Jekyll but Hyde is obsessed with her.”

Other characters in the musical, like the Bishop of Basingstoke, appear to be upstanding members of society but have secret dark sides. The other actor who plays Lucy, Rachel Olson, said, “One of the songs in the show is about facades, the facade you put on for everyone else.”

Like most productions at Draper Historic Theatre, "Jekyll & Hyde" is double-cast. Tanner Tate, one of the actors who plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde offered an analogy about the conflicting impulses between good and evil. "It's like there are two wolves inside of each of us and the one that grows is the one you feed," he said. "Because this show explores such complex themes it delves into some darker territory. It's exciting."

The other actor who plays Jekyll and Hyde, Eric Smith, said, "I think that there are many stories to be told. We don't always dwell on the darker ones, but they have some important lessons." He sees the role of Jekyll as more challenging. "I want to dig into why Jekyll is so obsessed. What are his motivations to flirt with the dark side?"

 Several cast members said that they were drawn to the musical’s soaring pop melodies. 

“The music is so epic,” Van Dam said. “Everyone knows the show for the music, but we also wanted to bring out the stories of the characters and their relationships.” 

Claire Mortensen and Hanna Schneck both play Emma, the woman who is betrothed to Dr. Jekyll. “I love playing Emma because she is such a strong character who is so in love,” Schneck said.

Mortensen said, “Emma is definitely not afraid to stand up and fight for what she wants, a happy life with the man she loves.”

She also spoke of the show’s dark themes and stated, “This is definitely not a show for kids. It has some heavier content, such as murder.” 

“Most musical theater is bright—this is very different,” Smith said. “But it’s a good different. If you’re looking for something fresh that is going to make you think, this is the show.” 

Draper Historic Theatre has a disclaimer on its website explaining that the production is recommended for mature audiences only. In this regard, it is a departure from the family-friendly musicals that the theater usually presents. In fact, “Jekyll & Hyde” is rarely staged in Utah. 

“This is not a show that you get a lot of opportunity to see,” Cahoon said. 

“It really is a once in a lifetime show, especially here in Utah,” Olson added. 

Mindful of the opportunity to present “Jekyll & Hyde,” the actors have come together as a tight ensemble. “We’re all best friends which comes through in the show,” Mortensen said. “Everyone elevates everyone else.”  

“Jekyll & Hyde” runs May 8 through 27 at 7 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinee performances on May 13, 20 and 27. The theater is located at 12366 S. 900 East. For tickets and more information, visit λ