Column: SLOW BURN’S ‘JEKYLL’ IS AS CLOSE TO BROADWAY AS IT GETS

Tony Edgerton tackles dual roles in Slow Burn Theatre Co.’s production of “Jekyll & Hyde.” Credit: Rodrigo Balfanz.

 

Curtain speeches are a quaint tradition in South Florida theater. Generally, the artistic director steps out before the beginning of the performance and either asks for money or thanks donors in the audience—or both. Sometimes these addresses are entertaining, but most often, they’re just something to be endured.

 At the opening night of Slow Burn Theatre Co.’s production of “Jekyll & Hyde” on Saturday night, artistic director Patrick Fitzwater and board chair Mark Traverso did just that, pleading for donations to cover the cost of new wireless mics necessitated by a change in FCC regulations and thanking a few of the donors in attendance.

 It was another comment from the effervescent Fitzwater that made me perk up in my seat. As always, he lauded the many talented actors, musicians, designers and craftsmen required to bring the show to life and emphasized that this was not a touring production of a Broadway show, but a truly local creation. In the moment, it sounded almost a little apologetic.

I saw the last touring production of “Jekyll & Hyde” in 2012 starring “American Idol” rocker Constantine Maroulis that eventually wound up on Broadway the following year (It usually happens the other way around.) and I can attest that Fitzwater and company’s production was superior in every way — every way.

The second exciting announcement was that Slow Burn plans to become an Equity theater next season, an expensive and daring step as they commit to hiring union actors for the majority of roles in every production.

The dark musical, adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn, would be a challenge for any professional company. 

 Tony Edgerton’s Jekyll/Hyde is a tormented being who commands every scene and slays “This is the Moment,” the breakout hit of Wildhorn’s score, triggering cheers from the audience. Carla Bordonada, the prostitute Lucy, delivers an equally powerful performance as a tainted woman in search of redemption. “Someone Like You,” the show’s ballad delivered by Lucy, offers a tender respite from the intense onstage action.

Wildhorn’s self-indulgent score is big and equally challenging for the singers. Music director Paul Tine leads a lean seven-piece pit band that sounds like a full orchestra and the cast—Equity and non-Equity alike—field powerful voices that attack the solos and gritty ensemble numbers with ease.

 The cast is bolstered by many talented Slow Burn veterans, including Lindsey Corey, Matthew Korinko, Erin Pittleman, Courtney Poston, Sahid Pabon and Rick Pena, who does double duty as costume designer. Get those Equity cards, guys!

 Michael McClain’s versatile set, anchored by dual grand staircases, is impressive, especially when accentuated by hundreds of lighting cues from designer Thomas Shorrock. In fact, it’s the incredible lighting effects that elevate this production above the usual excellent work from Slow Burn. If this show doesn’t earn Shorrock a Carbonell Award next year, that will be a real travesty. Take note, judges. 

No, take that back. Slow Burn deserves several Carbonell awards, including musical direction, stage direction and best actor for Edgerton. After all, this production is every bit as good as a Broadway touring production (and possibly the Broadway production, for that matter).

 Slow Burn Theatre Co. presents “Jekyll & Hyde” through Feb. 17 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $47 at BrowardCenter.org.