Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Won’t You be My/Our Neighbor

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Remember last year’s film “Mary Reilly,” starring Julia Roberts as Dr. Jekyll’s housekeeper? Don’t feel bad if you don’t; it flopped at the box office and quickly disappeared.

Do you remember the commercials for it, though? It featured disembodied male voices creepily whispering “Mary Reilly, Mary Reilly.” OK, maybe you’ve forgotten that, too.

Anyway, it’s a running joke in Murray’s Desert Star Playhouse’s current satiric musical revue, “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Won’t You be My/Our Neighbor,” and I think my three companions and I were the only ones who got it.

It really is obscure — it’s a parody of a commercial for a movie that failed, after all — but you have to admire a show that’s not afraid to go for the obscure jokes as well as the painfully, eye-rollingly obvious ones.

And “Jekyll & Hyde” certainly has its share of the obvious ones. Characters have names like Dr. I.M. Neverrong, and Dr. Jolly Good Fellow, and Colonel D. John Mustard. (Guess what? At one point, Colonel Mustard is found in the conservatory with a candlestick! Can you believe it?!) The acting style is broad, melodramatic and slapsticky.

But the actors are actually very good. This brand of comedy may not be the best showcase for it, exactly, but it is clear that the performers know what they’re doing. Most of them sing very well, and they generally seem fully committed to the oddness they’re required to perpetrate.

The plot is basically the same as Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, with a scientist trying to separate the good and evil parts of his brain, and succeeding with flying colors.

This show is more entertaining than Desert Star’s last show, “Space Wars,” largely because “Jekyll & Hyde” mercifully puts a lid on the lame Salt Lake City jokes that permeated “Space Wars.” (Although there are still a few. To wit: When Jekyll presents his unorthodox scientific theories, someone says, “Yeah, right. Next you’ll telling us you can exit at 4500 South!” People laughed, but that’s not, technically speaking, even a joke, let alone a funny one.)

Instead, “Jekyll & Hyde” mocks, with varying degrees of success, the following: Julia Roberts and her movies, Broadway plays (the song “Parody of a Broadway Play” is very clever and funny, and perhaps a little too hip for the slapstick-accustomed audience), cloning, horror movies in general, “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Les Miserables.”

A few jokes are not only tasteless, but unfunny, which makes them wholly unexcusable. One character of high social standing is told, “Your parties attract more celebrities than a Versace funeral.” Another character is constantly swearing by the name of some saint or another (“By the arch of St. Louis!,” etc.) and, when he mentions “St. Teresa,” is told, “She’s not a saint yet.”

Hello? Have you been helped? You think that was FUNNY?

These can be overlooked, though, because the show as a whole is quite entertaining and just plain fun. The transformation scenes, when Jekyll turns into Hyde, are good — not just good for a silly little show in Murray, Utah, but good by any standards. The use of the mirror, while eventually played for laughs, is initially a clever and ingenius theatrical technique.

That, plus the aforementioned subtle jokes mixed in with the crowd-pleasing groaners, shows that there is some real talent behind this show. It’s not lowest-common-denominator levity; it’s legitimate satire, without the meanness or sharpness that can turn off some patrons.

In other words, it’s a good show, fun for the family. Go see it.

This show was one trillion times better than "The Storm Testament," which I had seen a week earlier and which still left a vile taste in my mouth. Bravo, Desert Star!

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