Right and wrong, joy and despair, good and evil, characteristics shared by all humans -- sometimes the same person. These are the themes Robert Louis Stevenson addresses in his novel "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the basis for the musical "Jekyll & Hyde," which makes its Honolulu debut at Diamond Head Theatre tonight.
Jekyll & Hyde has
a new face to show
By Tim Ryan
"Jekyll & Hyde" tells the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a brilliant young doctor and research scientist who, distraught over his father's mental illness, embarks upon a quest to isolate the dual elements of good and evil. However, when his experiment backfires, Jekyll inadvertently gives life to Edward Hyde, his evil alter ego, a murderous being who let's loose a reign of terror on those who had ridiculed Jekyll's research.
And Laurence Paxton, who has seen the Broadway show and listened to several musical renditions, will tread where no actor has.
"I'm trying to make Dr. Jekyll nicer, more likable and attractive so there's a real contrast between him and Hyde," the actor says. "Most play him as an obnoxious and all-knowing bore. I'm giving him a sense of humor."
Paxton, making his 12th performance on the Diamond Head stage, prefers the evil Hyde to Jekyll.
"I never get to play a guy so totally evil," he said. "The trick is to also make him interesting to the audience so they don't totally hate him."
Think the Hannibal Lecter character in "Silence of the Lambs."
"You didn't like him, but he was mesmerizing; there was some amount of intrigue," Paxton said. "And my Hyde will be a little more sexual, not so apey."
The play can be enjoyed on several levels: the music, the story and the psychological, Paxton said.
"There are always two sides to people and how do we keep the dark side at bay," he said. "Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't."
Enter the character of Lucy, a prostitute who is attracted to the kindness of Hyde and the bad boy in Jekyll.
Lucy, played by Isabelle Decauwert, meets Hyde on the street where she works and he becomes extremely violent during their brief sexual encounter. Although she breaks away, Lucy is intrigued by the look in his eyes.
"It's a S&M sort of thing," Decauwert said. "She doesn't really understand the attraction."
Being attracted to the wrong kind of person is something everyone goes through, she said.
"When there's such a dynamic and instant attraction, all logic goes out the window," Decauwert said. "I know because I've been there. It's a very human thing."
Decauwert has not seen the show before and only heard the music four weeks ago when rehearsals began.
"I take a little bit of my life from here and there and meld it into the role," she said. "It's a bit cathartic in that it's like therapy. And if some aspect is missing, you make it up, improvise."
Stefanie Smart plays the privileged Emma Carew, Jekyll's fiancee, a "hard and tough role," she says.
"She needs him and loves him and worries when he seems to withdraw, but I don't play her as some needy 'Fatal Attraction' gal," Smart says. "I want the audience to sympathize, feel for her, root for her in this choice between the whore and the fiancee." Emma has no idea what Jekyll is up to other than working day and night on some experiment. She's supportive and proud of his tenacity.
"I have to bust my ass to flush out all the facets of her character," Smart says.
Paxton says this is the most physical role he's ever played. He's on stage for most of the two-and-a-half hours that includes several costume changes between his two characters.
"I've been going to the gym every day," he said over lunch. "And this is my first glass of wine in 10 days."
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 30
'Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical'
Where: Diamond Head Theatre
Tickets: $10 to $40 at the Diamond Head Theatre box office
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