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‘Jekyll & Hyde’ Review: A Stunning Experience

“Jekyll & Hyde” ran from Nov. 8 through Nov. 11 at the Loeb Drama Center.
“Jekyll & Hyde” ran from Nov. 8 through Nov. 11 at the Loeb Drama Center. By Courtesy of David C. Brown
By Eunice S. Chae, Contributing Writer

The Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s “Jekyll & Hyde” is a thrilling escapade into the streets of Victorian London. The production, which ran from Nov. 8 through Nov. 11, found its home onstage in the Loeb Drama Center. Director Nikhil O. Kamat ’25 presents the audience with a production that boasts engaging performances, a fixed set design that is both utilitarian and thematically versatile, dynamic orchestral music, and lighting techniques that serve as a cherry on top of an artistically and technically impressive work of theater.

“Jekyll & Hyde” is an adaptation of the 1886 Gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson — but Kamat’s production was anything but dated, presenting a compelling mixture of the timeless story’s essence and the original 1990 musical’s energy.

At the forefront of the 19-person cast is Mattheus A. Carpenter ’24, playing both the titular roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a captivating performance. Carpenter navigates the parallels and tensions between the two polar opposites with grace. He plays Jekyll with a subtle but ever present stiffness that belies the manic persona of Hyde, which lies just beneath Jekyll’s cordial demeanor. Those tensions grow until they lead into one of the musical’s most notable scenes: an explosive, musical confrontation between Jekyll and Hyde near the end of Act II (“Confrontation”), complete with dramatic lighting that swiftly changes hues based on who’s speaking.

The full cast is a genuine pleasure to watch as they interact and play off of one another, but particularly prominent performances include Isabella E. Peña ’24 as Lucy Harris, one of the love interests for Dr. Jekyll and a nuanced, conflicted character who quickly becomes a fixture of the show, and Anna S. Fitzsimmons ’25 as the unwaveringly steadfast Gabriel John Utterson, who serves as a much appreciated voice of reason during the utterly frenetic moments of the show. Their convincing and realistic depictions of two of the most important characters in Jekyll’s life are immensely fun to witness.

While the performances are strong, the technical and atmospheric elements were perhaps even more thrilling. Lighting designers Isabel V. Berliner ’24 and Raul Bodrogean ’25 use colored lights to an extremely effective degree, from wildly alternating them during “Confrontation” to maintaining an ominous, blood-red shade during the moments where Hyde picks off his victims one by one (“Murder Murder”). The lighting assures that the audience never misses what is happening — or about to happen.

The production’s atmosphere is crucially enhanced by the efforts of the 17-member orchestra, directed by Henry Wu ’25. From sweeping, theatrical songs like Jekyll’s proclamation (“I Need to Know”), to Lucy’s sultry, sensuous song in the middle of Act I (“Bring on the Men”), and even the thematic number that lends the show its main musical motif (“Facade”), the live orchestra amplifies the emotions and intensity of each piece. The proximity of the live orchestra to both the stage and the audience, as a connective body between the two, offers a valuable intimacy between the music and the viewers and listeners. Despite a few auditory and technical issues — mainly static, warbling, and distorted audio — that occurred in the first act, the orchestra and performers persevered and delivered an otherwise completely immersive musical experience.

The HRDC production of “Jekyll & Hyde” was, in one word, stunning. From the stage and vocal performances to the lighting design, not a single aspect of theatrical production went to waste. The production team, performers, and creative team took advantage of and utilized every element in the most fitting ways possible, to allow its audience a fully immersive peek into the dark, twisted mind of Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego. For fans and new audiences alike, the production delivered.

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