Friday, March 6, 2009

High school's 'Jekyll and Hyde:' An unusual love story

Building on the success of last year's production, "Les Miserables," the Juneau-Douglas High School drama department, headed by Michaela Moore, felt confident in tackling another big production - "Jekyll & Hyde."

A timeless piece about the struggle of good and evil within a person, this year's musical opens at 7 p.m. tonight at the Juneau-Douglas auditorium.

Although they chose the production primarily for its interesting and thrilling music, Moore, stage designer Lucas Hoiland and student orchestra director Richard Moore also loved the theme.

"The inner struggle between good and evil each man faces, whatever time period they are born, is a fascinating topic to tackle," Moore said. "The dramatic possibilities are endless."

But the play, based on the novella written in 1886 by Robert Louis Stevenson, is not only about good versus evil.

"It is the story of a man trying to expel the evil from mankind's nature in order to save his father from his insanity and ultimately save himself from the same fate," Moore said. "Jekyll's experiments stem from a true desire to help his father and all mankind and make a better world."

According to Moore, there's also a new twist in the musical - love.

"The musical takes the novella to a whole new deeper level of meaning," she said, "It adds love, which is the most craved attribute of human life. It is the twist of love that makes the story of Jekyll and Hyde so compelling."

Sophomore Shanae'a Moore plays Jekyll's love interest Emma. She said she loved the strength and perseverance of Emma's character.

"I love my character because she is so strong and can handle anything life hands her," Shanae'a Moore said.

"It is extremely hard to pull off strength of will and sweetness of heart at the same time," Michaela Moore said of the actress. "Her chemistry with Dr. Jekyll is great to watch."

Aaron Badilla, who plays the "good" Dr. Jekyll, threw himself into acting after performing in "Les Miserables" and falling in love with productions. Badilla, a senior, enjoyed performing and working with Michaela Moore so much, he took upper-division acting classes, including choir and a challenging scripted theater class, to get this role in the knick of time.

Michaela Moore described Badilla as a passionate and compelling Jekyll.

"He has the amazing ability to throw his whole person into his roll, and his chemistry on stage with the other three leads is seamless," she said.

The "evil" Hyde, played by junior Derek Lail, also said he enjoys playing his role.

"Who wouldn't want to play the cool bad guy who gets to yell and kill people?" he said.

Despite being a fun character to play, Lail said there were challenges.

"It was hard to find the right intensity level, and it took a while to get it right," he said. "(But) I can do what I put my mind to."

Michaela Moore was impressed with the young actor.

"He is one of the sweetest kids I have ever worked with and, like Jekyll, can transform on stage into an evil presence," she said. "At the same time, it's an evil presence that draws you in instead of repels you."

But Moore said this is key for the show to work.

"The audience has to have a twisted admiration of Hyde," she said. "After all, we all flirt with our evil side everyday."

Another facet to the play is the choreography for which Michaela Moore spent hours researching. But she didn't do it all alone. When she needed help, she enlisted a Juneau Dance Unlimited ballet student from the cast, Zoey Wilson, who choreographed the upper-level chorus in the big facade opening number.

The elaborate choreography along with the layered set created by Hoiland is one of the reasons for the slightly smaller cast. There are 69 cast members in all, six less than "Les Miserables."

"We have a magic mirror that we built that is thrilling and also a fireplace that is the hidden door to Jekyll's lab and a double layered set," Michaela Moore said. "The set, lights and music all work harmoniously together with the acting and singing to bring a whole idea to life. It is a big opportunity for Juneau to be able to see this kind of theater in our small town."

Michaela Moore knows the theme is dark, but sees it as a play of hope and believes it should raise audiences up.

"None of us are promised tomorrow," she said. "We should see every day as precious and seize every moment, not for selfish gain, but instead as opportunities to give and receive love. That is the magic of catharsis."

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