This is the Moment for a New “Jekyll & Hyde”:
An Interview with J&H’s Sir Danvers Carew as the revised musical kicks off its Broadway-bound tour in San Diego
By Donnie Matsuda
We haven’t heard much of Jekyll & Hyde lately.
The dark and dramatic musical, based on the acclaimed novella by Robert Louis Stevenson and first introduced as a concept album in 1990 featuring Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder, started in tour form with a 1995 road show co-produced by the Alley Theatre, 5th Avenue Musical Theatre and Theatre Under The Stars prior to its Broadway debut at the Plymouth Theatre in 1997. Once on the Great White Way, Jekyll & Hyde played for four thrilling, chilling years (till 2001) and then virtually disappeared from American stages. It did, however become somewhat of an international sensation with tours in the UK (2004), Brazil (2010), and Manila (2012), and over a dozen recordings from Germany, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Japan, among others.
|The Cover of the 1997 Original Broadway Cast Recording.|
Now, the musical about a London doctor with an evil alternate ego, is back in a new production that promises to be far sexier and even more stunning than previous incarnations. This exciting new revival, with music by Frank Wildhorn and book & lyrics by two-time Oscar and Emmy winner Leslie Bricusse, is directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun and stars Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis in the dual title role, as well as Grammy-nominated R&B superstar Deborah Cox as Lucy. This newly revised Jekyll & Hyde is currently in pre-tour previews at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and it will officially embark on a 25-week National Tour starting in San Diego, before returning to Broadway in the Spring of 2013.
And as the tour gets ready for its exhilarating premiere here at San Diego’s Civic Theatre starting October 2nd, I had the chance to chat with the man who plays Sir Danvers Carew, stage actor Richard White, who is perhaps best known as the voice of the villain Gaston in the animated Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. In the years since his voiceover debut, he’s taken to many, many stages across the country, playing Lancelot in the National Tour of Camelot starring Robert Goulet, Joey in the Broadway production of The Most Happy Fella starring Giorgio Tozzi, and originating the title role of Erik in the world premiere of Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston’s musical Phantom (his voice can still be heard on the show’s Premier Cast Recording).
Mr. White’s regional theatre roles include Jefferson and Rutledge in 1776, Fred Graham in Kiss Me Kate, Carl Magnus in A Little Night Music, Curley in Oklahoma!, Billy Bigelow in Carousel, and the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance. He has performed in New York City Opera productions of The Desert Song, The Merry Widow, Brigadoon, South Pacific, and The New Moon, and he also sang the role of Gaylord Ravenal in the Houston Grand Opera production of Show Boat.
Mr. White and I talked about a lot of random things, including how he got started in showbiz, his experiences filming Beauty and the Beast, the last show I saw him perform in (some sixteen years ago!), and his involvement in this most recent revival of Jekyll & Hyde. Read on...
DONNIE: Where are you from and how did you get started performing on stage?
RICHARD: I was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and was raised primarily in Pittsburgh. I have lived longer in New York than anywhere else, though. My folks met singing for KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. I just assumed that everyone's family sang all the time. Community theater and high-school musicals sealed the deal for me. Study at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Indiana School of Music helped me to know what I was doing. Then, ultimately, I took the leap to New York and started "casting the net."
DONNIE: You’re probably tired of people constantly referencing your work as Gaston in the Disney animated film “Beauty and the Beast.” But I have to ask…how did you get that coveted role and any interesting experiences while “filming” that movie?
RICHARD: On the contrary, I never get tired of Disney references. I'm quite proud of "B&B". They held blind auditions where everyone was put on tape and the tapes were sent to Disney. I was thrilled to get the part. You knew you were part of a magnificent tradition. We would record, then they would draw. Then we would record again. And again. Collaborating back and forth. All this over a period of a couple of years. I was working on stage most of that time, so wherever I was, they would hire a studio. The experience is kind of like an actor's sandbox. You're in a room by yourself and are invited to be as creative as you can be. Anything you could imagine … they could draw! When I finally went into the trailer where Gaston's animators were working and they heard my voice, they all poked their heads out to see the person attached to the voice they had been animating for a couple of years.
DONNIE: You’ve done a number of roles at Sacramento Music Circus (I last saw you on stage in “Kismet” about 16 years ago). Any favorite productions under the green and blue canvas tent? Anything you miss about performing there during the summertime? (No doubt you do *not* miss the three digit temperatures with no air conditioning!)
RICHARD: The Music Circus was great fun. Summer Stock in the round in a tent! It was a singular venue. I think it may be the last tent in the country. That “Kismet” with Michelle Pawk, a “Camelot” with Jimmy Brennan and Judy Blazer, and an “Oklahoma!” with Susan Powell (who has my heart to this day), come happily to mind. You're right, though, about the heat. In that “Kismet” I remember wearing satin and fake fur in 105 degree heat and the first rows getting soaked with my sweat.
|Richard White as Lancelot with Judy Blazer as Guenevere in Music Circus' 1994 production of "Camelot." Photo courtesy of SS&T.|
DONNIE: Out of the many roles you’ve played on stage (from Broadway to National Tours to regional productions), which are you proudest of and why?
RICHARD: That's always a very tough question to answer. I will say that being involved in a new show as it is being written is very satisfying. I'm quite proud of the work I did on the Yeston/Kopit "Phantom!" for that reason.
DONNIE: Where is “home” for you now?
RICHARD: New York
DONNIE: How did you get involved with this current tour of “Jekyll and Hyde”? Is this your first association with the musical?
RICHARD: The old fashioned way. I auditioned in New York. This is my first association with this (Wildhorn) "Jekyll and Hyde," but I played Dr. Jekyll in the original production of a different musical called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (music by Phil Hall). Marc Kudish played Mr. Hyde.
|Laird Mackintosh, Constantine Maroulis, and Richard White at opening night of the La Mirada pre-tour preview of "Jekyll & Hyde" on Sept 8, 2012. Photo by Ryan Miller.|
DONNIE: Tell me about this touring production (the third U.S. Tour of the musical which will kick off here in San Diego and end on the Great White Way in 2013) and about the character you play, Sir Danvers Carew.
RICHARD: This production is quite a bit different than any other of this show. It is more streamlined, it rocks more, and the story is easier to follow. We've kept all that was wonderful about the earlier productions and the creative staff has really juiced it up. From my perspective, it is VERY juicy. We're describing the atmosphere as "steam punk". It is way cool. Our director, Jeff Calhoun, is my new hero. Sir Danvers has been described as the moral compass of the piece. He's the chairman of the board of governors of the hospital where Dr. Jekyll works and the father of Jekyll's fiancé.
DONNIE: Anything interesting you can tell us about fellow cast members Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox?
RICHARD: They're two of the nicest, most accessible colleagues you could hope to work with. Not to mention that it is impossible to keep oneself out of the wings every time they open their mouths. It is simply thrilling. They also ooze sex appeal. No, really. I mean it. This production is VERY hot!
DONNIE: Why should San Diegans come see Jekyll and Hyde?
RICHARD: Be there or be square. It is a raucous good time. Cool to see, thrilling to hear! And did I mention, VERY hot!
|Richard White and Teal Wicks at opening night of the La Mirada pre-tour preview of "Jekyll & Hyde" on Sept 8, 2012. Photo by Ryan Miller.|
Thank you, Richard, for taking time to answer my questions! Break a leg on the tour…
For more information about the "Jekyll & Hyde" San Diego engagement, visit www.broadwaysd.com.