Filichia Features: Robert Cuccioli’s third role with JEKYLL & HYDE

Filichia Features: Robert Cuccioli’s third role with JEKYLL & HYDE

By Peter Filichia on September 14, 2018

Calling all Jekkies!

All those ardent fans that Jekyll & Hyde made during its tryout and 1997-2001 Broadway run will want to get to the North Shore Music Theatre starting on Sept 25th. Then you can quote Dr. Jekyll's most famous exhortation: "This is the moment!"

Robert Cuccioli, who on tour and on Broadway brought both characters to life, will be directing Constantine Maroulis, who played them in the 2013 Broadway revival. Diana DeGarmo portrays Lucy, the lady of many evenings while Tess Primack plays Jekyll's fiancée, Emma Carew.

(She was Lisa Carew during the pre-Broadway tour, but the two "L" names kept confusing people.)

Cuccioli has previously directed the musical (originally conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn) four times, most notably at Theatre under the Stars in Houston. That's where Jekyll & Hyde all began for him in 1995. Once again, he'll use the official MTI version that's part tryout and part Broadway.

Originally Jekyll's first song was "I Need to Know" and Lucy's was "Bring on the Men." When director Robin Phillips took over from Gregory Boyd, he inspired the writers to respectively replace those with "Lost in the Darkness" and "Good and Evil."

But after the Broadway production closed, composer Wildhorn and lyricist-librettist Leslie Bricusse reinserted the originals for the MTI version. Cuccioli is happy they're back.

He's grateful, however, for two other changes that Philips made. "First," he says, "Robin thought of having Jekyll's father confined to an insane asylum. Now Jekyll has a greater need to find a cure, for he wants to help his father in addition to the human race. It made him more sympathetic."

Then Phillips had a brainstorm for "Confrontation" in which Jekyll and Hyde battle each other for supremacy. Originally Cuccioli performed the aria alone in front of a black-and-white movie of Hyde that he'd filmed earlier.

"When Robin asked if I'd do both," he says, "I immediately answered 'Yes!'"

That led to the show's most famous image: Cuccioli tossing his hair back and forth, switching between the idealistic Jekyll and the horrific Hyde.

Two decades earlier, Cuccioli assumed his hair would be substantially shorter because he expected to work on corporate Wall Street. But when he was a senior at St. John's University, he saw the school was presenting Godspell.

"I saw myself as John the Baptist/Judas," he recalls. "They saw me as Jesus."

Soon Cuccioli had a dual life (although not as extreme as Jekyll's). He was a financial consultant for EF Hutton who spent lunch hours auditioning. Light Opera of Manhattan soon put him in the ensembles of The Desert Song, The Merry Widow and other chestnuts.

Long before Jekyll & Hyde, he experienced a different confrontation with his parents. They thought where Godspell had led wasn't all for the best.

"They weren't happy," he says, "until they saw me as Lancelot to Richard Harris' Arthur in Camelot (in 1987) because he was a celebrity they knew."

Off-Broadway came in 1990 as a son in The Rothschilds (two years ago, he played the father). In 1991 he did And the World Goes 'Round and debuted the title song of the still-yet-to-reach-Broadway Kiss of the Spider Woman. "Even though," he says with a smile, "it would be a woman's song in the show."

Cuccioli made it to Broadway in an unexpected way. "Six times I auditioned for Enjolras in Les Miserables," he says doggedly. "I always want to be the hero."

(Did that start after he got his first gig as Jesus?)

Six tries, six misses. After he'd auditioned for Richard Jay-Alexander, associate director of Les Miz, for another show - "and did miserably," he believes -- Cuccioli was surprised when Jay-Alexander asked if he'd like to play Javert on Broadway.

Guess what his answer was.

(Moral of the story? Don't second-guess yourself when you audition.)

"I did Javert for one year, one month and two days," he says. "I know that because Les Miz had everyone sign three-month contracts. Soon after I signed my fourth one I saw Jekyll & Hyde was looking for a leading man. I wanted it."

(Well, it did have at least half-a-hero.)

He'll always be grateful to Jay-Alexander for not standing in the way of a great opportunity - and his long association with Jekyll & Hyde.

"Despite directing it four times already," he says. "I've not done it in the round. That poses challenges that I want to meet."

We'll tell you in a few Fridays how Jekyll & Hyde plays in such a space.


Read more Filichia Features .

You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at . He can be heard most weeks of the year on