T.S. Eliot wrote, "April is the cruelest month," but he never tried to review theater in Orlando during September. Once again, after a summer season of relative inactivity, local troupes have launched a plethora of post-Labor Day plays, creating a conundrum for anyone trying to catch them all. Last Friday night was especially bloody at the box office, with Orlando Shakes' West Side Story, Cultural Fusion's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill and Garden Theatre's Bonnie and Clyde all opening simultaneously.
Picking among those premieres would be painful enough, but I bypassed them all in favor of the evening's most diabolical debut: Greater Orlando Actors Theatre's revival of Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical at Central Christian Church's CFCArts stage. Following the opening night's standing ovation, I spoke with producer-director Paul Castaneda and actor Adam McCabe (who stars as both title characters) about resurrecting GOAT with Frank Wildhorn's gory operetta.
The last time GOAT mounted Jekyll & Hyde was in 2009 at their ill-fated Cherry Street venue. After going on hiatus, the group returned last summer with In the Heights, but has been largely silent since.
"Circumstances beyond our control, including illnesses in the family, made us go dark for a little while," Castaneda tells me. "I always knew we'd be back one way or another, it was just a matter of time." Current events made J&H's good-versus-evil theme especially ripe for reviving. "Right now with what's going on in society and the election season, I thought it was an interesting time to show we all carry [good and evil] inside. ... We have to live in the grays and find ways to the middle ground if we're going to make any progress."
A major difference from Castaneda's previous take on the play is that Dr. Jekyll and his monstrous alter ego are now portrayed by a single performer, instead of splitting the role between two actors.
"I wanted to find a way to tell the story with one person and not have it come off as hokey or gimmicky. I wanted someone who could hold his own with the material, and show us both sides of it," Castaneda says, explaining how he cast McCabe, whom he previously directed half a decade ago in GOAT's Rent, Spring Awakening and Aida.
"I'm not going to lie, it's a little surreal," McCabe confesses. "Jekyll & Hyde was my first stage show that I had done outside of high school, and I did it with this exact theater company. I had a smaller role, so working my way up the food chain over the years to be able play the lead has been an incredible homecoming for me."
As McCabe tells it, tackling the split roles has been quite an adventure. "While Jekyll is an ambitious lab nerd, Hyde is this primitive force of nature. But the weird thing is, they're both extremely driven in what they pursue. Given the fact that I consider myself a very driven person, it's been strange to see on paper the consequences of what happens when somebody suddenly becomes too ambitious and the casualties it could cause. A character in the show says, 'You're a gifted man. Use your gifts wisely.' I can remember a number of times I did not follow those words in my day-to-day life. While those days are behind me now, it's still a little painful to reflect back."
Furthermore, both the actor and director drew parallels between the parts McCabe is playing and his personal life. "We've talked about him as a person and what he can tap into to bring this character out, both in who he really is, and also the public perception of him," says Castaneda. "Everybody in town seems to know, or think they know, who Adam McCabe is."
McCabe concurs, admitting, "I had been in a bit of an identity crisis over the last few years. A large part of my world was coming to an end with my mother dying and my engagement falling through, so I was really struggling to find my place in this world. It was very hard to figure out which parts of me were the good parts and which were the bad. Fortunately, that directly fed into my journey in discovering this character. If I wanted duality, all I had to do was look in the mirror and try not to fall too deep down the rabbit hole."
Finally, Orlando Weekly readers who remember McCabe's tenure as our art director may be interested to learn he still has love for OW, despite leaving to run a theme park website.
"Orlando Weekly and their vision will always hold a very special place to me. The magazine developed me professionally more than any previous job had ever done, and it allowed me to take on my new role with Inside the Magic with a full head and heart. It taught me that media is absolutely where I belong at this stage of my life, and professionally, that's one of those gifts that you keep with you forever. While I'm very happy where I am now, it's been fantastic seeing the Weekly thrive without me and my big mouth walking around the office."
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