July 12, 2007


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Jekyll vs. Hyde
StageCoach goes from dark to darker
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Brett Mallard and Michele Henderson were supposed to be starring together in Sweeney Todd this weekend. But a Broadway revival went on tour, so Nashua-based StageCoach Productions no longer had access to the rights.

“Initially ... I was really disappointed,” Mallard said. Sweeney Todd was his first professional role.

“That would have been quite a fun project,” said Henderson, a StageCoach founder and voice teacher. Jekyll and Hyde became their de facto replacement. Henderson is musically directing and Mallard is directing.

“This is definitely darker.... The comedy in Sweeney Todd helped people who aren’t into getting involved in the story,” Mallard said. How exactly can a show be darker than one about butchering people? When Jekyll and Hyde isn’t dark, it’s complex, he said. Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, it has a doctor seeking a cure to his father’s mental illness by trying to separate evil nature from good. However, his experiments create Mr. Hyde.

“The show is not your everyday sing-songy musical.... If you come to the theater not just to be entertained but to be moved by something, this I feel will move [you],” said Caity Glover, who plays Emma Carew, Jekyll’s fiancée. A beginning scene shows Dr. Jekyll trying to convince St. Jude’s Hospital to give him one person to test his theory of good vs. evil. It’s a favorite scene of Glover’s.

“The three main characters have vary lush, well-known ballads ... the music is quite haunting. The score came out of a concept album before the show was ever mounted. It became so popular it developed a cult following before it opened on Broadway,” Henderson said.

As Jekyll and Hyde, Stuart Harmon has to be able to transform from one character to another without use of makeup or elaborate costume changes. He got hair extensions for the part, and had to develop two singing styles.

“I was actually sort of surprised at how easy it was to play someone completely evil, which frightened me a little bit,” Harmon said.

Emma chose to marry someone she loved but her upper-class society didn’t approve of. “So she’s very strong minded, which is something I love about her,” Glover said. The part is described as lyric soprano, different than the mezzo belt part Glover played in StageCoach’s initial production, Jane Eyre. Harmon performed in Jane Eyre as well, and has been in about 20 shows with the Palace Theatre.

Glover said the quality of StageCoach is better than some professional companies she’s worked with. Glover has also worked with community troupes Pirate Stage Company in Rocky Horror, the Nashua Theatre Guild and New Thalian Players.

Although StageCoach is only presenting Jekyll and Hyde for one weekend, Mallard cited Glover’s point that for the cast and crew, the “process is half of the excitement and fun for us.” They learn, investigate characters, and escape from day-job reality.

The 25-person cast comes from various companies and has a lot of talent and commitment, Mallard said. Often, community theater participants are there more for the social aspects, he said, but added, “I really feel that people are psyched about doing this. They are there because they want to create a good piece of art.”

Mallard had the actors discuss what was happening in the scene before rehearsing it and do character development before running lines, Glover said. He also let the actors do “organic blocking” before finalizing stage direction.

Harmon said preparing for the show “has been exhausting and exhilarating.”

The ensemble plays multiple characters, from high society to lowlifes. In one of the most famous songs, “Facade,” the ensemble sings four different styles, “basically describing the fact that we all wear faces to disguise who we really are,” Henderson said.

Henderson and Mallard worked on three Actorsingers shows together.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with him because he truly understands drama and the music both have to be very strong,” Henderson said of Mallard. She also commented that “StageCoach was founded to be a showcase for talent as opposed to technology,” seeking to present, “interesting, thought-provoking pieces” that are not frequently performed.

StageCoach’s motto is “Giving voice to the extraordinary.”

Henderson said the other available weekend was too close to July 4, a week most people were on vacation.

“That’s the nature of theater, it’s very fleeting, that’s just the magic of it,” Henderson said. Extra royalty fees were another consideration, Mallard said.

Jekyll & Hyde
Presented by StageCoach Productions
Thursday, July 12, through Saturday, July 14, at 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 15, at 2 p.m.
14 Court St. Theatre, Nashua
Tickets $15, 320-3780, stagecoachproductions.org.