Bethlehem Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY DEB BOYLAN From left: Elizabeth Marsh-Gilkeson (Lucy Harris), Rob Clausnitzer (Dr. Henry Jekyll-Edward Hyde) and Gwen Vigarito (Emma Carew), Notre Dame Summer Theatre-Revelations Productions' PRESS PHOTO BY DEB BOYLAN From left: Elizabeth Marsh-Gilkeson (Lucy Harris), Rob Clausnitzer (Dr. Henry Jekyll-Edward Hyde) and Gwen Vigarito (Emma Carew), Notre Dame Summer Theatre-Revelations Productions' "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical," July 24 - Aug. 2, Notre Dame High School, Bethlehem Township

'Hyde' bound

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 by LUKE MUENCH Special to The Press in Focus

Notre Dame Summer Theatre back with musical classic

For many, "Jekyll and Hyde" is a classic piece of literature and theater that transcends time and tells the gripping story of a rather torn man who struggles with his own identity.

But for Rody Gilkeson, director of the Notre Dame Summer Theatre-Revelations Productions' "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical," July 24 - Aug. 2, Notre Dame High School, Bethlehem Township, it also stands as an exciting opportunity.

"I had wanted to do this last year, but the bishop of Notre Dame High School didn't feel that it was appropriate to be performed during the school year," Gilkeson says. "So, with the help of one of the priests working in the high school, we were able to get the approval for it to be performed over the summer."

A simple statement, yes, but a daunting task still. This is particularly accentuated by the fact that all funding for the project comes out of Gilkeson's pocket. While the space is provided to him by the high school, everything else is financed by he and his wife, Elizabeth Marsh-Gilkeson, from costuming and props to the smallest things we take for granted, like air conditioning.

Having done this for many years, however, this isn't an unfamiliar roadblock, encouraging Gilkeson to come "as close to Broadway as possible on a budget."

This point has been accentuated over time as he has watched various summer theaters in the area "fall by the wayside," unable to keep up with the monetary demands, and those that have stood the test of time tend to be expensive. "We try to do a quality show for a reasonable price, also using it as a teaching tool for kids."

But what really fuels Gilkeson's passion for Notre Dame Summer Theatre is the use of the productions as a means of raising money for scholarships for students at the high school.

The scholarship program was started in 2010 in the name of Kim Gillow, a Notre Dame High School student who was passionate about theater and died of cancer in 2009 at age 14.

Gilkeson and his wife founded Notre Dame Summer Theatre in 2010, presenting "Evita," followed by "My Fair Lady," 2011; "Kiss Me Kate," 2012, and "Les Miserable," 2013. The troupe did not present a musical last summer.

Notre Dame Summer Theatre's "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical" is believed to be only the second time for a Lehigh Valley production of the show (MunOpCo presented it in 2003).

Gilkeson felt it only natural to do another musical, particularly one as romantic as "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical."

Unlike the literature counterpart, the script for the stage version of "Jekyll & Hyde" focuses much more heavily on the two female love interests, Jekyll's fiance, who is only mentioned in passing in the original text, and Lucy, the prostitute who falls in love with Hyde.

Because of this, many of the male characters, such as Utterson, take a backseat to the lovers' quarrels, hardly appearing but for the occasional brief moment.

This is all the more supported by the music. "It is some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear with that classic Robert Stevenson storyline," says Gilkeson excitedly.

The musical is based on Stevenson's 1886 novel, "The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde," which was made into several films, notably a 1941 version starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner.

The stage show, which debuted on Broadway in 1997, received four Tony nominations and closed in 2001, features music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse and Steve Cuden with a book by Bricusse.

"If they leave and haven't bought the soundtrack already, they will," he says of "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical" theater-goers.

It's clear that "Jekyll and Hyde" has a lot of positive energy surrounding it.

"It's a play that, since it was written, has been talked about, and one that we'll continue to talk about for years to come," Gilkeson says.

"Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical," 7:30 p.m. July 24, 25, 31, Aug. 1; 2 p.m. July 26, Aug. 2, Notre Dame High School, 3417 Church Road, Bethlehem Township. Tickets: 610-252-1067, or at the door.