Sussex Musical Theatre Society (SMuTS) are presenting their Spring show this week premiering on Wednesday 21 March. The production is a musical theatre adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 gothic novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Following their fantastic sell-out performance of West Side Story last year, and of Cabaret in 2016, Jekyll & Hyde is a notable departure from SMuTS’s previously more traditional and well-known theatrical endeavours. Although a well-known book, the theatre adaption was relatively unknown to the cast and crew before getting involved, as I must confess it was for me.
Unlike previous productions Jekyll & Hyde is very vocals-heavy, with less emphasis on dialogue and dance. George Martin Marino, who plays Jekyll, draws a parallel with the theatre (and feature film) adaption of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, noting both its grand, operatic music style and unrelentingly dark atmosphere.
Directors Shannon Duff and Charlie Passalacqua are excited about the change in direction for the society, hoping it will attract new students to musical theatre. “It’s attractive because everyone’s heard of it,” Passalacqua explains. “So it’s familiar but also new…”
Familiar but new is something that resonates strongly with the directorial team. Although an experienced member of the society, this is Passalacqua’s first time to try a hand directing for them. Having performed in West Side Story last year, he’s enjoyed getting to work with the team in a new capacity and pursue one of his many other interests within the realm of theatre.
Duff, on the other hand, is brand new to SMuTS, and the pair are proud to have found a synthesis between “the way we do it here” and the new persepctives they have brought to the table.
On stage however, those who have seen SMuTS before may find a familiar face in lead actor, George Martin Marino, who portrayed Tony in last year’s West Side Story.
The new role demands not only much more vigorous vocal training, but also the unique challenge of portraying both Jekyll and his illusive alter-ego Mr Hyde. Marino recounts spending hours working on switching his physicality between the two characters – I’m excited to see how he manages to pull this off on stage, particularly during what is quite inarguably his most difficult challenge of the show: a duet with himself.
Last year’s musical director, Ellen Oxenham is stepping out of the wings to play the supporting role of Lucy Harris, a prostitute at a sleazy Camden bar. Meanwhile, Juliet Llewellyn-West will be portraying Jekyll’s girlfriend, Emma Carew.
The two actors are excited to show the strength and complexity of the female characters who do not feature at all in Stevenson’s novella. Llewellyn-West explains that though she has limited dialogue, the two roles both have heaps of potential as they possess some of the most powerful emotional numbers of the show.
Jekyll & Hyde will be at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) from Wednesday 21 March until Saturday 24 March, with student ticket prices starting at just £8.