Synopsis of "Jekyll & Hyde" the Musical

by Samuel Hamilton
The cast of the British run of

The cast of the British run of "Jekyll & Hyde"

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Based on the novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "Jekyll & Hyde" first appeared in 1997 on New York's Broadway before spreading to venues across the world. Critics and patrons received the musical favorably, though lackluster reviews and poor attendance eventually forced production to close. As with the novella, the musical focuses on the life and experiences of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a London-based scientist that struggles with his chemically induced alter-ego, Edward Hyde.

Characters

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 a chemical. Jekyll's close associates include his servant Poole, his friend Utterson and his fiancee Emma Carew. 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, as well as Simon Stride, Lord Savage, the Bishop of Basingstroke, Lady Beaconsfield, Sir Archibald Proops and General Lord Glossop. At the Red Rat lounge and nightclub, Jekyll interacts with a dancer/prostitute named Lucy Harris, her pimp Spider and the manageress of the club, Nellie.

Plot

Shaken by his father's mental illness, Dr. Jekyll invents a chemical, HJ7, that he believes can cure people afflicted with debilitating mental illness. 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. As he and his friend Utterson celebrate his bachelor party at a local club called the Red Rat, Jekyll witnesses an abusive relationship between Spider and Lucy, before retiring to his home and injecting himself with HJ7. Jekyll transforms into Hyde, and proceeds to explore London as his new alter-ego, attacking Lucy before starting a relationship with her, killing the Bishop, Lord Glossop, Archibald, Lady Beaconsfield and Lord Savage. He eventually kills Lucy. At his wedding to Emma, Jekyll and Hyde oscillate between personalities, and in a moment of clarity, Jekyll kills himself by throwing himself on Utterson's sword.

Reception

Jekyll & Hyde received much praise for both its theatricality and its production. To date, the show has garnered four Tony awards, one for Best Book, Best Actor, Best Costume and Best Lighting. Additionally, the show received a Theatre World award, three Drama Desk awards, six Outer Critics awards, a Friend of New York Theatre award and Joseph Jefferson awards. The show consistently attracts "big name" performers such as Skid Row's Sebastian Bach and the famed star of "Baywatch," David Hasselhoff, and singer/songwriter Linda Eder.

Adaptation

An adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the musical remains faithful to the primary conflict in Stevenson's work: a struggle between man and himself. The musical version invents a tighter construct around which the characters revolve: that of the Board of Governors and the mental hospital. Additionally, the musical version introduces the characters of Emma and Lucy and the love relationships between Dr. Jekyll and Emma, and Mr. Hyde and Lucy. The musical itself has also been adapted into a concert called "Jekyll and Hyde: The Concert."

About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images