West Branch’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ to open on Halloween

BELOIT- The West Branch theater class production of “Jekyll & Hyde, the Musical” opens at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31 in the West Branch Community Auditorium. Other shows are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2, 3 p.m. Nov. 3 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4.

Tickets can be reserved by calling the box office at 330-938-4442. Admission price is $10 for adults and $8 for students. There will be some seats at the door but better seating is available by calling the ticket office.

Set in the always good for spooky, Victorian England, “Jekyll & Hyde” is the tale of a dedicated doctor’s descent into madness. It’s the well-known story-his intentions are good, but playing with the ‘sacred life-force’ is a prescription for disaster.

“Jekyll & Hyde” is a musical thriller based on the novel, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Originally conceived for the stage by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden, it features music by Wildhorn, a book by Leslie Bricusse and lyrics by Wildhorn, Bricusse and Cuden. Following a World Premiere run in Houston, Texas, the musical embarked on a national tour of the United States prior to its Broadway debut in 1997. Many international productions have since been staged including two subsequent North American tours, two tours of the United Kingdom, a concert version and a re-vamped US tour in 2012 ahead of a 2013 revival on Broadway.

The story centers around Dr. Henry Jekyll, shaken by his father’s mental illness, invents a chemical, HJ7, that he believes can cure people afflicted with debilitating mental illness and separate good from evil. He struggles to convince the Board of Governors at the mental hospital to allow him to test the chemical on patients, even though he is set to marry the chairman’s daughter, Emma Carew. As Jekyll and his friend, Utterson, celebrate his bachelor party at a local saloon known as the Red Rat, Jekyll witnesses an abusive relationship between Spider and Lucy Harris, before retiring to his home and injecting himself with HJ7. Jekyll transforms into his own evil alter-ego, Edward Hyde, and proceeds to explore London, attacking Lucy before starting a relationship with her, killing the Bishop, Lord Glossop, Archibald Proops, Lady Beaconsfield and Lord Savage. Jekyll finds himself battling his inner demon and soon is unable to control it. After brutally murdering Lucy, Jekyll learns to keep Hyde under wraps until the day of his wedding where Jekyll and Hyde oscillate between personalities, and in a moment of clarity, Jekyll throws himself at Utterson’s sword, killing both dualities of his person.

The characters of Jekyll and Hyde can be grouped into two principals, those associated with the Red Rat lounge, and those associated with the Board of Governors. The principals include the eponymous Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, a scientist that transforms into a sadistic and angry man when he injects himself with the chemical HJ7. Senior Parker Zamarelli, son of John and Jennifer Zamarelli, once again takes the stage at West Branch. He last portrayed Cornelius Hackle in “Hello Dolly,” Prince Eric in “The Little Mermaid,” and the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” Parker is a member of the soccer team and he brings the character of Dr. Jekyll to life with his rendition of the famous song, “This is the Moment.” He then turns around only moments later and delivers the song “Alive” as the chilling murderous character, Edward Hyde.

Jekyll’s close associates include his servant, Poole, played by Josh Petkash, and his friend, John Utterson, played by Zach McMullen. Josh is the son of Paul and Jenny Petkash and was last seen in the comedy “Sandbag Stage Left” last spring. Zach, son of Virgil and Tina McMullen, is no stranger to the stage. His rich baritone voice sparkles when he performs in a quartet with the other leads. Dr. Jekyll is engaged to his fiancee, Emma Carew, played by Rylee Caufield. The daughter of Dave and Anjie Brown, Rylee is an exceptional singer and actress. She gives a flawless performance of “Once upon a Dream,” one of the many love ballads in the show.

As both Jekyll and Hyde, the main character interacts with the Board of Governors at a local mental hospital where Jekyll works. The Board consists of Emma’s father, Sir Danvers Carew, played by Cooper Briceland, as well as Simon Stride played by Cooper’s twin brother Colby Briceland. Colby and Cooper are the sons of Denny and Kari Briceland and are seniors as well. As Sir Danvers, Cooper gives a great performance vocally with other main characters. Colby perfectly matches the energy needed to portray the stern character of Simon Stride.

Also on the Board of Governors is Lord Savage, played by veteran actor, Brandon Utley. Brandon, a junior, is the son of Gary and Debby Utley. Brandon has had many roles throughout his years at West Branch. Also on the board of Governors is the Bishop of Basingstroke, played by Wesley Miller, and Lady Beaconsfield played by Jane Stahl. Wesley is the son of Ted and Marvilla Miller. A junior, Wesley has studied voice for several years and shines in the role of the Bishop. Jane Stahl, daughter of Mike and Judy Stahl, excels at singing and makes the part of Lady Beaconsfield very believable.

Sir Archibald Proops, played by Lance Thompson, adds a bit of comedy to the show. Lance is the son of Lisa Thompson. Senior Dakota Lovell, the Warrior Chief at West Branch High School this year, plays the eccentric General Lord Glossop. Dakota is the son of Kristen Lattimier. He has been in almost every show since he became a student at the high school.

At the Red Rat lounge and nightclub, Jekyll interacts with a dancer named Lucy Harris, played by Audrey Nolte. Audrey is the daughter of Molly Nolte. Audrey has been in every show since her freshman year. Audrey gives a stellar performance of the song “Someone Like You.” Spider, the manager of the girl dancers, is mastered by sophomore Jake Koneval, son of Steve and Christine Koneval. The manageress of the Red Rat club, Nellie, is played by dancer and singer, Gabrielle Sanor. Gabrielle has been studying voice for many years. Gabrielle is the daughter of Mark and Tina Sanor and is one of the most trained dancers at West Branch.

Rounding out the cast are chorus members Zachery Dean, Takota Frederick, Ethan Griffith, Mike Jones, Rob Lozier, Lucas McDaniel, Jake McIlvain, Alex St. Clair, Olivia Brunner, Kristen Bates, Destanee Goosby, Danielle Shereve, Laura Slutz, Hannah Thomas, Megan Winters, Faith Wittenauer, Madison Woolf, McCoy Yarian, Shayna Sawos, Kim Salvino, Brittany Randall, Rachel Murphy, Victoria Mossow, Marina Moffett, Bree Metts, Carli McQuilken, Megan Lucas, Jessica Lozier and Chelsea Krol.

Director John Zamarelli adds, “We have two sides to each of us. They are constantly at war, to do good or evil. Sometimes it’s apparent and sometimes not, but it is always there. I love that I have the chance to direct a show that completely blurs the line between the two sides when they are often considered so far apart. And I am proud of Parker for accepting the acting challenge of playing two very distinct characters, several times within the same scene, is incredible. I am sure the audience will agree that he has lived up to the challenge.”