Studio Cast, 1990 (RCA) (2 / 5) As a musical theater composer, Frank Wildhorn writes great pop songs. That’s amply demonstrated by this “concept” recording of Jekyll & Hyde, which lacks any theatrical context. Some of the songs, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, evoke moents from Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera but are less interesting musically and dramatically. Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder co-star in this two-person recording; in grand pop-opera style, they let few vowels go unmodified, and never exercise emotional shading where over-emoting will do. Eder seems clueless as to character nuance; still, her robust voice can overcome the sentiments of Bricusse’s lyrics, sell a soft ballad such as “Once Upon a Dream,” and strongly deliver the power ballads “Someone Like You” and “A New Life.” Jekyll & Hyde was always less about Jekyll or Hyde than about showcasing Eder’s voice. Although Wilkinson sinks his teeth into his songs, particularly “This Is the Moment,” his performance is so far over the top that all we can do is grin and bear it until it’s Eder’s turn to sing again. We never have to wait very long. — Matthew Murray
Studio Cast, 1994 (Atlantic) (3 / 5) Linda Eder returned for the second Jekyll & Hyde recording, but here she sings only the songs of the prostitute Lucy; Carolee Carmello was brought in as Jekyll’s fiancee, Lisa. The title roles are superbly filled by Australian actor-singer Anthony Warlow. From an acting standpoint, it might be said that both Warlow and Carmello are too good for the material; trying to make these pop tunes theatrical is a lost cause. The recording boasts a huge orchestra and tons of songs (the complete score up to that point), so if you simply must own one Jekyll & Hyde, this should probably be it. The plot is difficult to follow, but certain tracks are fun, including Eder’s saucy “Bring on the Men” and her powerful “Someone Like You,” Warlow’s dynamic “This Is the Moment,” and the Eder/Carmello duet “In His Eyes.” Many other numbers are silly, “Façade” and “Murder, Murder!” in particular. But, overall, Jekyll & Hyde has never sounded better than it does here. — M.M.
Original Broadway Cast, 1997 (Atlantic) (1 / 5) By the time Jekyll & Hyde got to Broadway, it was more a parody of itself than a serious show. Linda Eder is still Lucy, and her pop affectations are out of place amid the theatrical acting/singing style of the Broadway cast members. Robert Cuccioli’s performance of Jekyll’s “This Is the Moment” joins the already hefty catalog of self-indulgent renderings, but he does a better job as Hyde. Of the leads, only Christiane Noll as Emma (the renamed Lisa) makes her character believable; she performs with sweetness, sensitivity, and a legitimately beautiful voice. Unfortunately, her songs are among the show’s dullest. “Murder, Murder” and the endlessly reprised “Façade” remain unintended comic highlights, and some newer numbers — “Pursue the Truth,” “Emma’s Reasons,” “I Must Go On,” and “Letting Go” — aren’t much better. The score reaches a new nadir with “Good ‘n’ Evil,” featuring such lyrics as “The key thing about good ‘n’ evil / Each man has to choose! / Heaven ‘n’ Hell / Is a helluva gamble to lose!” — M.M.