It was a very nervous Teddy Tahu Rhodes that stood before the media at the launch of the Australian professional premiere of Jekyll and Hyde. Performing the well known anthem of the show, ‘This Is The Moment’ Rhodes admitted to me he was more nervous about this performance than anything else he has ever done.
Rhodes said he had listened and listened to the song and had been waiting for “this moment” to finally perform the iconic song, but it’s not part of his repertoire and therefore not one he had sung before. Rehearsals for Jekyll and Hyde don’t actually start for another five months. He admitted it’s much harder singing these well known songs to an audience than songs no one knows.
Rhodes explained, “Everyone knows it (‘This Is The Moment’) and they’re waiting for that big change at the end. There’s been some great singers who have sung it – no less than Australia’s own and the quintessential performer of it: Anthony Warlow.”
Ah yes, Anthony Warlow, “the quintessential performer” of this song. The dictionary defines the word quintessential as meaning:so many musical theatre fans wanted to hear announced for the role. With respect for Rhodes, I didn’t even mention the name of Anthony Warlow. It was Rhodes himself who mentioned Warlow very early in our conversation. Clearly Rhodes knows Australian fans would have loved to hear Warlow in this role and Rhodes knows the pressure he is under to live up to their expectation of Jekyll/Hyde.
Warlow pretty much claimed ‘This Is The Moment’ as his own and introduced it to many Australian musical theatre lovers over the years, despite not actually playing the role. It’s a song that has become somewhat synonymous with Anthony Warlow. Warlow even workshopped the role of Jekyll/Hyde in New York earlier this year as a pitch for this new revised version, but apparently turned down the offer to play the role for the Australian premiere production.
The role wasn’t then simply given to Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Like every other cast member, Rhodes had to undergo an extensive audition process – including auditions to the director, composer and producers. Rhodes may be a household name, he may be dubbed the “rock star of opera” but he still had to prove he could pull of this huge musical theatre role.
“I’m really excited. To be asked to play the lead character is incredibly humbling,” said Rhodes. “It’s a huge role.”
Musically, Rhodes describes Jekyll and Hyde as both grand and intimate, big and small, dark and light, and regards the whole score as really amazing. This will be Rhodes third musical, after roles in South Pacific and The King and I – all of which have been collaborations between Opera Australia and John Frost and he is enjoying this genre of theatre.
In reference to his opera background and the difference to musical theatre, Rhodes commented, “It’s not defining whether you are this type of singer or that type of singer, it’s about finding a way to make the role work for the story and you just perform it your way. And I think that’s the beauty of the theatre – everyone just performs it in their own style and that’s certainly the angle I’ll be coming from.”
To prepare for the role of Jekyll/Hyde, Rhodes plans to do a lot of reading, including reading the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel. He also knows he will be doing a lot of work with the musical director to develop his style. While he’s currently busy with other projects, Rhodes is aware that once rehearsals commence he will be consumed by absolute focus on Jekyll and Hyde.
Rhodes acknowledged he is somewhat “divisive” amongst musical theatre audiences, but feels incredibly privileged to have people who faith in him to do the role and very humbled whenever people want to see him perform, taking nothing for granted.
“It’s great to go to the theatre and be surprised. Maybe you go to the theatre with one opinion and you come out with a different one?” he added.
Rhodes admits playing the role of Jekyll/Hyde is big responsibility. He also knows someone will understudy the role, explaining, “When you’re the lead and you see the understudy you’re just as intimidated by them. Honestly, they are often equally as good, if not better than you … This is why it’s a privilege and that’s why you work to make it the best it can be. So I’ll be working really hard over the next five months I can assure you.”
Jekyll and Hyde opens in Melbourne in December 2015.
For more details and tickets: http://jekyllandhydemusical.com.au/
Photos: David Hilbig