Photos by Michael DeCristofaro
By Janee Law
In John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Jekyll & Hyde” audiences are exposed to an authentic battle between good and evil.
The battle is particularly apparent in “Confrontation,” a mesmerizing performance in which Dr. Henry Jekyll, a gentle, passionate and romantic giant displays his internal battle with the violent beast and petrifying madman, Mr. Edward Hyde.
Based on the 1886 story, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, the Northport Village production features a thrilling score of pop rock hits from multi Grammy- and Tony Award-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn and two-time Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer Leslie Bricusse.
As Paul Stancato serves as director and choreographer of the production, the ensemble commands the stage with its operetta synchronization.
For Penelope Voeller, an audience member at last Friday’s show, she said the production delivered an operatic quality, adding that “Broadway is in Long Island and very fortunate.”
In “Transformation,” Nathanial Hackmann (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) starts the captivating scene as the well-mannered and soft-spoken doctor, but then, in a physical battle, Hackmann effortlessly transforms into the grunting and indecorous brute.
Not only is Hackmann’s ability to embody polar opposite personalities impressive, but he is also a powerful singer. He bellows beautiful operetta tones in “Take Me As I Am,” and exposes his low, mid-range voice with gritty angst and operetta pitches in “Alive!”
The production’s leading ladies are Caitlyn Caughell, as the beautiful and seductive Lucy Harris, and Liana Hunt, as the beautiful and trusting Emma Carew. In “In His Eyes,” the two stun the audience with a compelling duet.
Chris Mancini, another audience member, said her favorite character was Lucy, adding that Caughell’s portrayal of the character was amazing and “her singing was fantastic.”
When both Hackmann and Caughell hit the stage, their chemistry is undeniable. The passionate and toxic pull between the duo in “Dangerous Game” is thrilling and authentic.
For Voeller, her particularly favorite scene was “Dangerous Game.” She added that “There was a great chemistry between both performers and they were very professional. That moment was very believable.”
Although Hackmann loves all the scenes he performs on stage, his favorite last Friday was “Dangerous Game.” Hackmann said he enjoyed hearing the reaction of the audience at the end of the scene.
“It’s the greatest fruition of any long process, when you see that goal and you can feel the work you’re doing is effective,” he said. “That’s exactly what we do it for.”
Hackmann added that this has been the hardest performance he’s done on stage.
“Trying to be specific and trying to be contrasting between the two characters is an amazing challenge, but it’s also a bucket list part,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been in love with since I was a kid so the opportunity to get to do this is just amazing.”
When he learned that he landed the part, Hackmann said, he did a lot of research on dissociative identity and borderline personality disorders to prepare for the role and find authenticity within the character.
“I was very lucky because of our director and the way he let us go through the process,” he said. “We talked very much about specific choices about what the characteristics of the two characters will be. The body language, the accent choices, and the voice choices were very specific from the very beginning.”
Showtimes for “Jekyll & Hyde” at the John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are from $71-$76 and can be purchased at the box office, or at Engemantheater.com. Shows run through April 30.