Hypocrites never mind a mirror that flatters. This alone explains the theme, if not the success, of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's musical Jekyll & Hyde.
Bricusse's book turns Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll (Constantine Maroulis) into a do-gooder doctor seeking to cure his criminally insane father and liberate humanity from its evil nature.
Hypocritical authority figures (priest, dowager, general, politician, judge) stand in Jekyll's way, each protecting his or her vices by impeding the doctor's work. Their admonition to "not play God" with patients forces Jekyll to self-test his serum, transforming him into the murderous Hyde, who quickly kills these adversaries.
Jeff Calhoun's direction renders this Victorian melodrama into a sensationally staged musical flush with exceptional stagecraft and sharp humor. Tobin Ost's interlocking set pieces create credible cathedrals, underground laboratories, and asylums, all accentuated by Daniel Brodie's thrilling multimedia projections, particularly in Maroulis' "duet" as Jekyll against a 20-foot projection of himself as Hyde.
A stellar cast amplifies Calhoun's choices. Deborah Cox's prostitute Lucy seduces with a throwback cabaret style and submits to Hyde's will with a powerful gospel belt. Teal Wicks, as Jekyll's fiancee, has a lovely voice that pairs well with Maroulis in multiple numbers.
Maroulis' dual portrayal excels in juxtaposition; his Jekyll starts the night in falsetto and mostly stays there, his Hyde hypnotizes with the devilish charisma and throaty vocals of a rock star.
Jekyll's delusion is that he alone can conquer the dark impulses he wants to uproot from society. But rather than condemnation, the musical encourages empathy - not for the murdered hypocrites, mind you, for the supremely narcissistic scientist.
And where great art - such as Stevenson's novella - transcends life to offer insights, this melodrama provides an easy moral holiday for those who believe the best way to do good involves responding to tragedy with a highly vocal, benighted concern, but little personal action that might otherwise risk catastrophic failure. The object lesson? Jekyll tried, but failed; we sympathize and never again lift a finger.
No doubt this gives great pleasure to hypocrites everywhere.