The second version of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's Jekyll & Hyde, referred to as "The Complete Work, " is certainly more extensive than its predecessor,...
The second version of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's Jekyll & Hyde, referred to as "The Complete Work, " is certainly more extensive than its predecessor, a 1990 "highlights" album sung by Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder. That album was dominated by Wildhorn's pop ballads -- "Once Upon a Dream," "This Is the Moment," "Someone Like You," "No One Knows Who I Am," "A New Life" -- and Eder's Streisand-like belting. There is no lack of that sort of thing here: in fact, with "Take Me as I Am," "Sympathy, Tenderness," "Letting Go," and "In His Eyes," there's even more of it. But, extending over two discs and two hours, there is also the Robert Louis Stevenson tale, told in musical recitative, and even in occasional character songs that, unlike the many ballads, are even performed with British accents. If Jekyll & Hyde is the story of a man divided into two parts, the score mirrors that form, as the plot songs contrast with an album's worth of songs that all sound like the sort of thing that plays over the closing credits of romantic movies, bland lyrics of love and self-fulfillment sung by soaring voices over straining strings. It is often true that concept albums, since they have been designed as such, work better as sheer listening experiences than cast albums drawn from actual theatrical productions, which often come off as souvenirs. This was true of the early Andrew Lloyd Webber works, for example, and it is true here. One can follow the story easily. In fact, if anything, there's too much plot; often, the story seems repetitive and plodding. Although this recording was made shortly before the start of a national tour of the show, it's hard to imagine it working on-stage as recorded here, what with one Eder ballad followed immediately by another, as the storyline is dropped for extended periods of time. Concept albums are also often dominated more by the lyricist than the composer, and again that's true here, as Leslie Bricusse's lyrics, with their authentically British tone and the philosophical musings that often recall his earlier works such as "What Kind of Fool Am I?," drive the story despite Wildhorn's similar melodies and clichéd effects. Jekyll & Hyde still isn't a successful musical piece on this recording, but it is a fully realized dramatic work for the first time. (Jekyll & Hyde was produced on Broadway in 1997 in a vastly revised form that dispensed with much of the material on this album, primarily retaining the big ballads. The single-disc original Broadway cast album was the usual souvenir, leaving this recording as the best representation of the score.)