If the headline has momentarily stumped you, here’s the short answer: You’re probably both.
The popular musical, “Jekyll and Hyde,” opening Thursday at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert explores the good and evil sides of humanity. Many, if not all, of us have the capacity for tremendous good and terrible not-so-good. And despite what some believe, going from light to dark is more akin to stepping over a standard-size manhole than crossing the Grand Canyon.
Don’t believe me? Try cutting that sweet grandmother of five off in traffic and watch her Hyde emerge. But it’s probably safer – and far more entertaining – to see the show.
Based on the classic novella, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, the College of the Desert’s big spring production follows the adventures of a scientist who tests a dual-personality experiment on himself. The results are provocative, frightening, romantic and something to sing about.
Desert Outlook recently sat down with Mark Almy, who’s cast in the title roles, to chat about the challenges and rewards of bringing this legendary tale to the desert.
A vocal workout
Playing two different characters requires tremendous direction and skill to keep the audience following the storyline. Almy does this primarily with his voice.
“Hyde has to sound distinctly different from Jekyll,” he says. “We achieve that by adding a growling quality to how he speaks and sings.
“You have to pace yourself. To me that’s kind of tiring.”
“My tendency with the Jekyll character is to have him start very dark,” Almy says. “Our director [Sha Newman of Broadway and L.A.] has been smart. She’s said that has to be a surprise. Jekyll has to be all about light.
“I’m drawing on the 5-year-old in me to play Jekyll. I see him as being very childlike so that he comes across as very vibrant and youthful and full of hope,” he adds.
“He’s doing this experiment. He’s taken on this persona as part of his mission in life.”
It’s so easy being mean
Almy says during his acting career he’s slipped into the bad-guy roles easily.
“In each of us there is that capacity. I once upon a time had to play the role of a Nazi guard,” he says. “It was an extraordinary experience. I found I could go there on stage though it’s not something I could do in life.
“I have a personal place I go to. I place somebody in that position from my real life.”
That humming sound is … you!
Like all great musical theater, “Jekyll and Hyde” has timeless tunes you have heard even if you never saw the show. “This Is the Moment” and “Once Upon A Dream” are the more well-known showstoppers.
Almy’s favorite moment in the show is the performance of “Murder Murder.”
“It’s just a joy to watch. It’s a great score, very melodic,” he says.
Why you should see the show
If you imagine a night at the theater as watching a show with pyrotechnics, fab costumes and sets from a Fullerton opera company, you’re in luck.
The 21-member cast has prepared for opening night since early February, Almy says, and it shows.
“It is going to be extremely well-done. Any work that is well-done should be seen,” he says. “I would also say because it comes from a rich source there’s a lot to think about afterward.
“A work of art that prompts that is worth seeing.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Jekyll and Hyde”
Where: McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert
When: 7 p.m. May 3, 8 p.m. May 4 and 5, 2 p.m. May 6
Tickets: $20 to $35
Information: (760) 340-2787, mccallumtheatre.com