Musicals Thread (Back to Basics)

Welcome! The purpose of this thread is to talk about all things related to the wonderful world of musical theatre. I post a thread with a topic/question for everyone to respond to, but you are always more than welcome to discuss other topics! This is also a great place to mention any new musicals you’ve discovered and/or general recommendations for other musical fans. Heard any good shows lately? Have any theatre news to share? Tell us about it!

In the summer of 2017 I discovered this wonderful community, and after a couple months of tentatively posting I got the idea to create a weekly thread about musicals because I wanted to contribute something of my own. I’m not an expert on musicals, there are tons of shows I’ve never listened to, I’ve only seen a few shows live, and I’ve only been to Broadway twice, but I love musicals. And I love writing about musicals that I love. So much love! <3 But lately, and if you’re a regular in this thread I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve struggled to find anything to write about. But I missed this thread, and I missed reading about what you’ve all been listening to, what your favorite musicals are, what songs are your favorite or your least favorite, etc. So this week I’m going back to basics in a very literal way–I’m sharing something I wrote about in 2017. I’ve polished it a bit and added some new thoughts, but the question I ask is the same as before: Do you love a musical that you feel the need to defend? My answer is the same as it was in 2017– the strange, but fun, musical Jekyll & Hyde.

There are some musicals that nearly everyone has agreed are great works of art, but not all musicals receive the same love. Every now and then you may fall in love with a show that everyone around you seems to think is silly, boring, or downright bad. For me, this musical is Jekyll & Hyde. In the past I’ve found this can be a difficult musical to sell. I’ve been a huge fan of Jekyll & Hyde since high school, but it never even occurred to me until I was older that this musical was not everyone’s cup of tea. On the one hand, I can understand why people would be turned off by the cheesy lyrics, the extremely dramatic plot, and the over-the-top musical numbers. On the other hand, I love all of those things! In fact, I love them so much that I prefer the earlier version of the show (The Complete Work recording that came out in 1994) which is way more over the top and dramatic than the Broadway version. It’s the longest version of the show, and, in my humble opinion, features the best Jekyll/Hyde: Anthony Warlow (I’m not a fan of David Hasselhoff’s performance).

So, why do I love Jekyll & Hyde? 1) It’s spooky and macabre, which are two of my favorites things. The first song I heard was Hyde’s “Alive” and I was immediately hooked. It’s a truly frightening song, and I think you can really feel the evil in Warlow’s performance. 2) It’s also hilariously cheesy at times, and it doesn’t hold back even a little bit. It’s so over the top that you can’t help but laugh at some of the lyrics, but I love that about it because it just feels so perfectly silly. The silliest lyrics deal with the hypocrisy of Victorian society, so it seems appropriate to me. As someone who used to teach and study Victorian literature, I always felt that they were rather silly. 3) And yet, the musical is also surprisingly touching at times. The ending always makes me tear up just a little, and it’s hard not to sympathize with some of the characters. I realize that I might be alone in this—I tend to be overly emotional—but there is some real heart in this show. And, if you’ve been here before, you know that heart is the most important quality I look for in a work. This, of course, is not to say that the story is perfect. It’s definitely not, and if you’re a fan of the book you might cringe at this adaptation (personally, I love both equally) but I still find myself singing along to these ridiculous songs, sympathizing with some of the characters, and fearing Hyde. In the recording I prefer, the musical is described as a “Gothic Musical Thriller” which is probably the best way to describe it. This is also why several songs ended up on my monthly Halloween playlist.

If you’re curious about this show, here are some songs you might enjoy:

In addition to these samples from my preferred recording, I have to include the one song that is far, far better in the Broadway recording: “Dangerous Game”. I’m so glad they changed this number because it was truly awful before, and now it is one of the best moments in the show:

And, if you’re thinking to yourself “how can anyone like this musical?” Well, I don’t really blame you. It’s a tough sell. So, is there a musical that you love that most people seem to think is less than stellar? As always, feel free to talk about anything at all related to musicals! And hopefully soon I’ll be inspired to write something original and new. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this old topic.