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Candlelight can’t ‘Hyde’ enthusiasm, talent

Things are getting a little unhinged this month at the Candlelight Pavilion as the local dinner theater presents a thrilling version of “Jekyll & Hyde.”

Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the musical follows the transformation of a well-meaning scientist into a reckless alter ego who revels in sexual abandon and violence.

“Jekyll & Hyde” was adapted for the stage by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden and made its Broadway debut in 1997. The Candlelight has made the production its own via dynamic choreography and powerhouse vocals. The latter come courtesy of Candlelight regulars like Amy Gillette (Emma Crew) and seasoned equity actors like Michael Scott Harris (Jekyll/Hyde) and Laura Dickinson (Lucy) who, along with numerous stage roles, has lent her voice to “Phineas and Ferb” and various Disney animations.

There’s more than a bit of the rock opera to this retelling of a timeless horror classic.

There’s the heightened sense of drama that comes when storytellers plunge into dark regions of the psyche—the disastrous combination of noble intentions and overweening pride, and the canyon-wide disparity between the public persona and the id. All this is set against the backdrop of Victorian society, where the outward trappings of morality compete with the evils of the class system and the tectonic rumblings of subterranean desires.

Members of the board of trustees at St. Jude’s Hospital and London clergy are quick to pillory Dr. Jekyll for his audacious experiments. But they are just as quick to hasten to unsavory spots like the Red Ratt, succumbing to the underworld lure of booze and sex.

Adding to the musical’s appeal is the soaring soundtrack, which ranges from wistful ballads to cinder-hot songs of seduction. It is impossible to overplay the vocal talents of Mr. Harris, pitch-perfect as the terrified altruist Jekyll and the darkly magnetic Hyde, Ms. Gillete—who lends her soaring soprano to the role of Jekyll’s sympathetic fiancé—and Ms. Dickenson, who as the prostitute Lucy showcases an octave-straddling voice that oscillates between resignation and hope.