The press release for Bohemian Theatre Ensemble’s “Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical” proudly trumpets the “complete reconceptualization” of this material. Two bumbling hours later, you might find yourself wondering how one re-conceptualizes something that had little concept to begin with. Throughout its long and arduous development from 1989 album to 1997 bombastic Broadway musical with cult worldwide following, composer Frank Wildhorn’s score has always been this property’s calling card and main claim to fame, which explains why in the 1990s you couldn’t turn on an Olympic telecast or Miss America pageant without hearing someone burst out into the musical’s most famous song, the anthemic “This is the Moment.” (And with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama proclaiming “This is our moment,” I wouldn’t be surprised if Wildhorn’s song royalties receive a noticeable boost by election time). No matter that the song’s function is to convey the psychological desperation and immense trepidation faced by a scientist about to experiment on himself, like most numbers in the show you could pluck it from its original context and successfully perform it as a standalone song, such was the strength of Wildhorn’s melodies and the secondary importance of all other dramatic elements involved. Not that you’d know this from director Stephen M. Genovese’s misfire of a revival in which the inverse seems to dictate the proceedings. Emphasizing acting over singing, and approaching Wildhorn’s soaring numbers with vocal restraint, BoHo’s “reconceptualization” seems to be the treatment of “Jekyll and Hyde” as penny dreadful drama versus gothic-style song-cycle. It doesn’t work. The voices are so weak it’s disconcerting, and the best one can say for those that do make an impression is that they are untrained with potential. Placing the burden on a book (by Leslie Bricusse) that rarely motivates—psychologically or emotionally—Wildhorn’s numbers, you quickly recognize that the only concept “Jekyll and Hyde”’s brittle dramaturgical skeleton will best support is one in which the songs take center stage and are given the kinds of voices necessary to achieve musical lift-off. Still, the puzzling fact remains: how this miscalculation could be the product of a director and company with an obvious love and understanding for, as well as proven track record with, the musical genre. Chalk it up to experience, I guess, but this is a big step backwards for BoHo and definitely not their moment. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont, (773)327-5252. Thu-Fri 8pm/Sat 4pm & 8pm/Sun 6pm. $20-$27. Through Jul 20.