Teal Wicks, who’s done a green witch, happy to show other colors in musical ‘Jekyll & Hyde’
Preview: Co-starring in Broadway-bound “Jekyll & Hyde,” opening March 14 at Cadillac Palace Theatre, the former Elphaba of “Wicked” relishes her new, lighter role.
By Lawrence B. Johnson
Teal Wicks made a name for herself as the misunderstood but resilient green girl Elphaba in “Wicked.” Shed of the body paint, she’s again playing a young woman who marches to her own drum as Emma, the fiancée (against all prudent counsel) of the mysterious Dr. Jekyll in the musical “Jekyll & Hyde.” Where Wicks is marching with it is right back to Broadway.
But before this touring revival production reaches the Great White Way for its official opening next month, it pauses for a stint at the Cadillac Palace Theatre under the banner of Broadway in Chicago.
“One lovely thing about Emma,” says Wicks with a laugh as she recalled her stretch as verdant Elphaba on Broadway two years ago, “is that getting made up for my character doesn’t take nearly as long. This isn’t a complete transformation. I don’t have my head and body painted.”
And yet under the skin, she says, the ostracized green witch and the socialite Emma share an important quality: “They’re both very strong-minded women who know what they want in life and do everything they can to get it. They stay true to what they believe in.”
In the case of Emma Carew, daughter of the socially prominent Sir Danvers Carew, staying the course means sticking by her engagement to Dr. Henry Jekyll (played by American Idol star Constantine Maroulis), whose research into the dichotomy of good and evil in men has brought down a torrent of ridicule.
Like the original 1886 novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, the musical by composer Frank Wildhorn with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse follows Dr. Jekyll’s rash experiment in which he injects himself with a formula that draws out his evil side – to which other self he gives the name Edward Hyde. When this dark side gains the upper hand over the humanitarian Jekyll, mayhem and murder result until the good doctor takes the only action possible to put a stop to it.
“It’s an allegory about the good and evil we all have inside us – and how you deal with those competing urges,” says Wicks. “It’s also about the works of medical science that advance the well-being of mankind and the line between research that is acceptable to society and what is not. (Stevenson’s) book was written at a time of advancements in medicine when some breakthroughs were viewed as criminal.”
At the same time, says Wicks, the socially well-placed Emma is struggling with issues of her own.
“She’s a bit rebellious, but Dr. Jekyll is an extremist and not the best match for her social class. Yet Emma is also passionate, and even though he won’t let her into his private world, she chooses to stay with him. For me, she still believes that the man she fell in love with is still there and that she can be his guiding light.”
All that said, Wicks leaves no doubt that “the star,” as she puts it, of “Jekyll & Hyde” is the music.
“Frank Wildhorn’s score is really beautiful and fun to sing,” she says. “It’s great to be out there onstage and witness these soaring, powerhouse songs. That alone is just cool, outside of everything else. There’s a lovely stylistic balance between classic music theater and contemporary rock and R&B.
“Jekyll’s music is more in line with popular music theater, but Mr. Hyde explores really dark undertones, the rock aspect with heavy guitar and drums.”
A similar musical split applies to the two women in the doctor’s divided life: Emma and the prostitute Lucy (sung by R&B star Deborah Cox).
“I get to do more of the legit lighter musical theater. Deborah’s more on the sultry side,” says Wicks. “For me it’s a big change from Elphaba, which was an intense role and very demanding, thrilling but also exhausting. Emma lies perfectly for my voice, but I also get to stand up and belt out a powerhouse duet with Deborah. And the great thing is, I get to do it every night.”
- Complete details of Broadway in Chicago’s spring season: Read preview at ChicagoOntheAisle.com
- Peformance location, dates and times: Details at BroadwayinChicago.com