Even if one has seen a production of the musical-horror drama “Jekyll & Hyde,” Free Range Humans is promising a production like no other.
From the moment the audience walks into the chapel of Centennial Memorial United Methodist Church in downtown Frederick, the production will be total immersive theater.
“They meet Jekyll, and they get to know why he’s about to embark on the journey he’s going down. The ensemble invites them to follow them into the depths of the church,” said Elizabeth Lucas, Free Range Humans producing artistic director.
“Jekyll & Hyde: An Immersive Musical Experience” premieres Friday evening at the church. It runs selected dates through Nov. 3.
Lucas, who is also the director and producer of the musical, said the show is a tighter, 90-minute edited version of the original Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse hit. Lucas was granted permission to rework the show 15 years ago.
“For that, they allowed me to do the cutting from several drafts of the script. And I really focused on making the script a thriller and cutting it down so that it felt like a screenplay, and it never really lets you catch your breath from top to bottom,” she said.
From the chapel, the action moves to the great room. Lucas said the audience then follows the cast room to room. Those who can’t climb to the second floor can see the scenes from a screen in the great room where the action will be streamed, she said.
Matt Hirsh, of Silver Spring, slips into the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, calling it “a dream role of mine.”
“It’s a very interesting role for sure because you don’t necessarily have to be two different people, but you have to release your inhibitions to an extreme,” he said.
Transforming back and forth as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been a challenge that the actor has enjoyed.
“’Jekyll & Hyde’ is probably the most difficult roles of duality because of the extremes you have to go to — vocally, physically — you really have to distort your body and limbs and be that new person,” he said.
Performing as Dr. Jekyll’s fiancée Emma is Kylie Smith of Damascus.
She said what she loves about Emma is that “she comes across traditionally as an ingenue but she’s really incredibly strong. She’s a strong-willed, independent thinking woman and she partners so well with Jekyll, which makes it such an interesting leading type lady to play.”
Smith said this production really looks at good versus evil.
“There are so many things that are involved in this story that are important to Henry,” she said. “... There are two sides of every person and you get the extremes of that in this story, but he’s still trying to defeat that evil.”
Laura Whittenberger, who is from Ellicott City but spends most her time in New York, was cast as Lucy, the woman who is the object of obsession of Hyde.
She said she was excited to be cast with the company saying they’re “a bunch of great people.”
“I saw they were looking for this character specifically and I thought it would be a nice challenging role,” she said. “And Lucy is such an intense character. She — like everyone else in this story — is wearing a mask.”
Like all those involved, Whittenberger said she loves the musical that was written for the show.
“The emotional ballads. The power of the score. I think with this score especially there’s a lot of indulgent emotional moments that are more flushed out than in other scores,” she said. “You get to see deeper into character’s minds unlike other musicals.”
Michael E. Mason, a new transplant to Frederick by way of NYC, was cast as Gabriel John Utterson, a close friend of Dr. Jekyll’s who is investigating what is going on with his friend.
Mason has been a fan of the show since the concept Houston recordings. He calls the music challenging, and the score beautiful.
“I love the dark overtones, the duality of man,” he said.
Follow Crystal Schelle on Twitter: @crystalschelle.