I had no idea what to expect when I tuned into The Old Vic‘s streaming of the fascinatingly athletic dance adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde by Drew McOnie (Broadway’s King Kong). It’s not your traditional telling, almost from the get go. It feels like we are being transported to a slightly upmarket Skid Row floral shoppe, fully expecting Little Shop of Horrors‘ Seymour and Audrey to come through the doors, and in many ways in makes a whole lot of sense how that beautifully fun Off-Broadway musical fits the same gothic novellapot. But instead of Seymour finding his power alongside a flesh-hungry plant, the young nervous dreamer at the core of this version of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, danced most dynamically by the very appealing Daniel Collins, finds his revitalizing power hidden most Freudian-ly inside of himself through the ingestion of a liquid plant formula created to revitalize his sickly dying plants.
McOnie’s Company finds clever restructured the dynamics within Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, rooted in sexual lust and insecurity. Set in the clever mode of a big colorful MGM musical circa London in the 1950s, Jekyll, a timid but romantic struggling florist sets his dreamy eyes on the beautifully Dehlia, danced by the stunning Rachel Muldoon, but discovers he has no strong game against the more dominate and aggressive rival he encounters one strange wild night out on the town. You can’t help but be on Jekyll’s side, hoping he finds the inner strength to stand up to this cool handsome stud/jerk, but we know he’s going to need some help, but who knew it was going to turn out like this.
Jekyll swallows a potion flavored with is own blood, transforming him, in a brilliantly electric shower sequence, into the powerful and uber-confident Hyde, dynamically embodied by the impressive Tim Hodges. In this more muscular confident form, he struts in and takes what he wants, fighting and overpowering all that stand in his way. His passion for domination and fornication has no bounds, and even as the piece falters through some spectacularly stereotypical innocent vs. not so innocent scenarios, the drama, backed by solid rock guitar and tense violence, delivers the tale of Jekyll and Hyde with novelty and force, with some quick silly touches of romance and fun.
The dance sequences pulse the piece forward muscularly, passionately, and quaintly from floral shop to nightclub to bedroom, depending on the rhythm and rhyme of the moment. The talented crew of dancers spin dramatic circles around the magnificently detailed set by Soutra Gilmour that gives mood and style to the event. Even within the goofy comic moments and overwrought dynamics, Grant Olding’s magnificently diverse score sprouts so much growth to lean into, especially during its wild swings of style and sound. The floral musical and physical aromas are compelling and dynamic to take in, and the energy infectious. The dancers find grace, power, and narrative meaning in every interaction, never losing sight of the plot and the device within.
It’s an impressive spectacle, this Little Shop of Jekyll and Hyde, a dance performance piece that doesn’t usually engage this theatre junkie so completely (I kept waiting for them to break out in a song…), but the skilled and passionate delivery finds charm, edge, and darkness within. The sexual flower competition ridiculousness luckily flies by fast, although the sexual stereotypes for the women and the glamorizing of sexual violence linger a bit too long on a psyche. The overall effect, though, blossoms outward, revealing the clever darkness that resides somewhere deep within the human psyche of this Jekyll and Hyde flowering far beyond the predictable with the exciting and chilling finale. I’ll take a dozen.