The Brisbane premiere of Jekyll & Hyde was produced by the young, ambitious Pro/Am company, Blue Fish Theatrical Productions.
Headed by Julie Whiting, the mission of Blue Fish is to help emerging artists (performers, musicians and stage crew) to bridge the gap between amateur and professional work, and indeed you will see some talent in this production. While there were mixed reactions to the overall direction which may have been a bit harsh according to true professional standards, we need to keep in mind that the aim of the company and judge it accordingly.
Being such a young company, there is much contention about what they should or should not produce. And while Blue Fish could have picked a safer option of starting with more traditional and easier productions, I think the go hard or go home attitude of staging newer and bigger works is to be commended.
A company needs to brand themselves from the start so the risk taken to brand the company as a real contender of exciting new works was necessary. In addition, I’m sure the more contempory works is a welcome challenge to the performers and musicians alike.
What struck me most about this production was the talent of the individual performers that made up the cast and especially watching the growth of these emerging artists who are making a name for themselves on the Brisbane scene. Lionel Theunissen played the lead role of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde superbly. His vocals were impressive and could have been easily heard on a cast recording. He brought such energy and conviction to the role.
Another consummate performer was Luke Venebles who played John Utterson, Dr Jekyll’s loyal friend and lawyer. Luke’s performance was solid and faultless. A true professional, he owned the part and the stage whenever he walked on it. It was also good to see Natalie Ridoutt no longer a bridesmaid, in the principle role of Lucy Harris. I didn’t realise how many great songs this character gets to perform. Known for her belt, it was also nice to hear her showcase the finer qualities of her voice by handling the lighter parts with great poise and control.
Even the chorus had a standout performer with Julianne Clinch, who played one of the sexy Red Rat girls. Each time the chorus was on stage I couldn’t help but be drawn to her. Ruth Bridgstock played the loyal fiancé Emma Carew of Dr Jekyll aptly and without pretention. I enjoyed the steam punk vision of Michael Mudd’s direction and would have loved to have seen it taken further if there was opportunity.
The lighting design by Tom ‘the General’ Dodds had a few black spots where actors may have missed their mark but overall was well constructed, inventive and memorable and the orchestra did a brilliant job bringing the score to life under the MD of Julie Whiting.
Lastly, I applaud Blue Fish Theatrical for the shear guts in setting up a theatrical society to give performers and musicians more opportunities to strut their stuff and in turn help the growth of the Brisbane performing arts scene.