Inkcanto: A place to Hyde your secrets, relish the dark side

If you enjoy mystery, danger, sex in dark places and peering into secrets better kept hidden behind a pristine facade—then, my friend, I present, for your pleasure, Hyde and Co.:

Oh, sorry. That’s Hayden Kho. Look, everybody deserves a chance at redemption. The guy now has Green Tea and Peony among his fragrances—he made it himself, after studying perfume science in France. Stop your careless whispers about him.

By Hyde and Co.:, I meant the cast and characters of Repertory Philippines’ production of the Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde”. The Repertory production is definitely something you must not miss. There’s still time to get your tickets—but based on the response of the audience when I watched it on opening night last week, you had better get them fast. On stage, the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde—while quite changed from the original source material, the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson—is a successful adaptation to the musical stage.

We are all familiar with the plot. A doctor, the repressed, Victorian gentleman Henry Jekyll, invents a potion that transforms him into the execrable, uninhibited, lusty, violent and murderous Edward Hyde. Hyde commits all sorts of disgustingly pleasurable, and pleasurably disgusting, acts. He then disappears, to escape from accountability—out of place but never out of mind—into the psyche of Henry Jekyll.

Thus, the “good” Dr. Jekyll is able to engage all sorts of things his public persona would never do, through his alternate personality, Hyde. In the meantime, Dr. Jekyll is able to continue being the gentleman all perceive him to be.

This story stands well enough on its own but, over generations since the story was published in 1886, only the transformation from man to his monstrous alter ego has been entrenched in the popular consciousness. Obviously, that’s because it is the one part of the narrative that we can all relate to: yes, we all have secrets that are better hidden, if we are to keep our reputations untarnished, and retain the respect of society at large. There are exceptions, of course:

In the age of Internet scandals, viral videos, and reality TV, exposing certain secrets can even make a person rich and famous. That only happens, though, through a still-mysterious combination of celebrity status, good looks, and the type of secret that was exposed. Not all celebrities are done good by scandal. The Vince Troyer (the actor who played Mini-Me in the Austin Powers film series) video went viral a few years ago but it disgusted people a lot—he was with a woman and they seemed naked and…please, no more. My mind is still scarred from it.

No one has really figured out fail-proof formula for turning a celebrity fiasco into gold, which is why every celebrity needs a PR firm: PR helps put a spin on an otherwise unsavory secret that is exposed, either reducing the damage or even reversing its effects.

If Henry Jekyll had a PR consultant, for example, the story of Jekyll and Hyde would not simply be about the duality of man and the struggle between good and evil within each of us—it would come in the form of a liquor ad, where Edward Hyde would be drinking in a private jet filled with bikini-clad Brazilian models. Hyde would pose with these women, along with an Ilocano politician, and the photo would go viral.

This is why the adaptation of the Jekyll and Hyde story for the stage is a good thing: it brings an age-old dilemma of the human person to the foreground, and reminds us that even in our technologically advanced age, when we feel jaded, cynical and blasé about many things—undoubtedly because we are overstimulated by information through Twitter, Facebook, and other online sources of such data. We need to be reminded that we still swing between our better and worse selves and make decisions according to which self dominates our judgment at the crucial moment.

Before my musings go any further, I simply must praise the cast of the Repertory production. For many in the audience, rock icon Jett Pangan was a revelation. It’s not really a novel thing to have a rock singer take on a role in a theater musical; Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gilliam already did that in the 1970s for “Jesus Christ Superstar.” However, every time such a crossover happens successfully—as is the case with Pangan in Rep’s “Jekyll and Hyde,” it is a cause for celebration. The audience gave Pangan a standing ovation at curtain call.

No longer just the Dawn vocalist who sang 'Enveloped Ideas,' Jett Pangan proved that he's a versatile singer and theater actor as he moved guests to give him a standing ovation for his compelling performance as Mr. Hyde (in photo) and Dr. Jekyll. Photo courtesy of Repertory Philippines.

I last saw Cris Villonco when she was barely a teenager. Then she went overseas to study voice and music and worked as a singer and actress in Hong Kong. When she went onstage to portray Dr. Jekyll’s fiancee Emma Carew, I felt really old. How could she do that to me? Anyway, the Cris Villonco that I saw and heard that night was simply light years away from the little kid who sang for a softdrink commercial.

CRIS VILLONCO shines as Emma Carew. Photographed here during her love duet with Jett Pangan as Jekyll. Photo courtesy of Repertory Philippines.

Cris’ soprano voice is consistently strong, lyrical in the softer, lighter notes, and resonant in the high notes–she definitely has some of the best vocal chops in the cast. Too bad that her character, Emma Carew, seems underwritten and rather one-dimensional.

Maybe what Mae West said is true, about being good when good but being better when one is bad? In any case, Cris makes the most of the role and does a wonderful job. Her love duet with Jett Pangan is just unforgettable—it’s a privilege to listen to these two great voices.

The character played by Kalila Aguilos is more interesting. The press writeup for the theater production, bewilderingly, describes the character as a “saucy actress” but really, her “performances” are what men gladly pay for when they visit her place of work in the slums, The Red Rat. Aguilos plays her character to the hilt and holds her own beautifully in the vocal department. Aguilos simply eats up the stage with her presence and her terrific acting.

Beguiling and butt-grabbing (Really. Watch the play and find out.). Kalila Aguilos as Lucy Harris. Photo courtesy of Repertory Philippines.

And Junix Inoxian? I can’t imagine any other Filipino actor playing Jekyll’s best friend Utterson—the character was written differently for the musical (compared to Stevenson’s original, which would likely be boring onstage) and Inoxian makes his rendition of it ultimately sympathetic as the conscience of the narrative.

I was sobered by the realization, while watching the musical, that so many of the solo parts being sung were very difficult pieces. The songs are both physically and artistically demanding. The solo “This is the Moment,” which launched the career of pop singing idol Erik Santos, is not even the hardest song in the repertoire. My God. Considering how difficult these songs are, you simply must clap your heart out for the actors.

Really. “This is the Moment” is not really that difficult to sing. Even David Hasselhoff can sing it here:

The Hoff lets it all out.

Watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfl9Z-Pg9qw See? Now I have condemned your soul to purgatory, and your violated psyche to six months of anti-depressant use.

It occurs to me, at this point, that this is the first “review” of a musical that I’ve done in maybe more than a decade. This is because I was also a victim of a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation when I did my last review of a musical, many years ago. From a young and rather unknown writer who wrote about a musical production every now and then:

Ichabod Crane. Photo source: http://gloriouskyle.deviantart.com/art/Ichabod-Ichabod-Crane-3685173.

Really rather insignificant and modest in stature, and nerdy, right? And yet, after one bad review, I was transformed into this:

Doing a theater review for a really bad play can transform a writer into the worse thing that he could be.

The people involved in the production just treated me like a monster. A little girly monster, yes, but a monster nonetheless. What made the experience extra special was the feedback I got from audience members and other people in the arts, who also saw that musical: the agreed with me but preferred to keep quiet, precisely so they will not be the object of anger.

One of them, a sweet old lady and a respected and beloved figure in Philippine arts and literature, even called me up at the office, telling me that she agreed with my negative review but that she didn’t want to speak out. “Baka magalit din sila sa akin,” she said. Quoth the Raven, indeed.

So it’s rather serendipitous that one of the people involved in that musical that I reviewed many years ago has recently sent me a Friend Request on FB. I am inclined to accept it. After all, he had personally offered me a glass of red wine during a media conference of another production of his, a few months after my bad review of his previous work—a move that struck me as theatrical, even Shakespearean, and the wine was not poisoned. It was very sporting of him.

Again, go and watch “Jekyll and Hyde” at Onstage theater in Greenbelt One in Makati. It’s worth every second of your time and every peso you spend. Bring your family. Bring your friends. And don’t scrimp on the applause—let yourselves go crazy with clapping to cheer the actors on.

For tickets, inquiries and other information, call Repertory Philippines at 571-6926 or 571-4941 or e-mail info@repertory.ph. Tickets are also available thru Ticketworld at 891-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph.

InterAksyon.com