For Anthony Warlow and indeed so many others, this really was 'The Moment’.
At the same time as declaring he never wanted to perform this role 8 times a week he also stated that he never intended to perform it at all, however, in honour of the internationally acclaimed recording he made 25 years ago, one of Australia's finest performers and voices finally relented.
The complete works CD of "Jekyll and Hyde" was instrumental in launching Warlow onto the world stage with the show’s composer, Frank Wildhorn claiming that working with Warlow on that recording was one of "The greatest thrills of (his) creative life." In Hamer Hall Last week, Wildhorn finally had his long held dream of seeing Warlow perform the role realised.
With the 'Melbourne on the theatrical map' opening of Harry Potter and MTC productions such as The Lady in The Van and forthcoming Kiss of the Spider Woman, 2019 has been incredible for big ticket theatre meaning that billboards claiming another "Theatrical Event of the Year' risked losing impact, however, those who filled Hamer Hall for two incredible nights last week were genuinely privy to something quite extraordinary and absolutely worthy of all the promotional superlatives.
Jekyll & Hyde was first presented at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas, in May 1990 but it took until March 1997 for it to premier on Broadway. Based on the Gothic novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886, Jekyll & Hyde offers an exploration of the interplay between good and evil along with the duality and division between the public and private self. Full of soaring and uplifting music including a veritable anthem known to many even beyond the theatre, unbelievably, this 25th Anniversary Concert of the complete recording marks the shows first professional production in Australia.
Directed by Chris Parker with Musical direction from Vanessa Scammell, this clever but minimally staged concert accompanied by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra ensured that the focus of the evening was sharply on the score and indeed on performance. For 25 years Warlow has been heralded for his delivery of two discernible vocals highlighting the two sides of this character. In the absence of significant theatrics to aid the illusion of transformation, capturing the necessary differences between Jekyll and Hyde for a live audience would require a fuller and more physical approach. Slipping between the refinement of Dr Jekyll and the lacivious Mr Hyde was perfectly and seamlessly apparent. Anthony Warlow could sing binary code and it would be a delight but the man deserves as much praise for being a profoundly good character actor as he does for the joy of his voice.
While the impetus for its very staging and obvious highlight of the evening was the man in the lead, sharing the stage of Hamer Hall in both larger and ensemble roles was an utterly flawless company. Stand out next to Warlow were the two supurb female leads along with several smaller male roles most notably the charming and dashing Martin Crewes as John Uttersson.
Making her Australian Stage debut as Jeckyl's fiercely loyal fiancee Lisa, Amanda Lea LaVergne was simply perfect and shared a commited performance supported by incredibly beautiful vocals.
As generous as Warlow is as a performer, it's hard not to fixate upon him whenever he is on stage but then came along Jemma Rix. Captivating, powerful and heartfelt this portrayal of Lucy was nothing short of mesmerising. With her perfectly controlled vocal, Jemma delivered some of the shows most beautiful moments and arguably nearly stole it. She was simply outstanding.
This 25th Anniversary Concert of Jekyll & Hyde was an absolutely incredible evening, rich in talent and class and joyous in its celebration of a wonderful show.
With the demands of the principal role understandably deterring many performers from committing to 8 shows a week, it feels an awful shame that Mr Warlow and this truly wonderful company can't give audiences even a few more opportunities to enjoy what they have come together to create.
Jekyll & Hyde
composer Frank Wildhorn
Director Chris Parker
Venue: Hamer Hall | Arts Centre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 25 – 26 October 2019
with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Venue: Darling Harbour Theatre at ICC Sydney, NSW
Date: 2 Nov 2019
with Sydney International Orchestra