Nothing to Hyde

From the Glee Club to The Grand Theatre, QMT proudly reaches its 40th year

Jon Bell plays the title role in QMT’s 40th anniversary production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which sees their return to the Grand Theatre after four long years.
Jon Bell plays the title role in QMT’s 40th anniversary production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which sees their return to the Grand Theatre after four long years.
Credit: 
Supplied

Every January in Kingston, a small group of students—unified by their love of musical theatre, a grueling work schedule and a high-octane publicity blitz—gather nightly in Macgillivray-Brown Hall or the drafty corridors of the JDUC. And, like any other year, pre-production-week excitement and relief is sure to be a staple for Queen’s Musical Theatre. But this year, the spotlight isn’t only for those on stage, but on the group’s history.

This week not only marks QMT’s return to the Grand Theatre after a four-year hiatus but also the 40th anniversary of the company. As the organization reaches its ripe middle-age, it’s taking the time to look back at its long history, as well as continue its launch of large-scale theatre with the musical Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

“Originally, before QMT was put together, it was the Queen’s Glee Club,” said this year’s director and long time QMT member, Alain Richer, ArtSci ’09. “They performed a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan plays.”

Although QMT might occasionally pull out an old Gilbert and Sullivan piece, the company is no longer limited to just one style of music theatre and has grown immensely over the past 40 years. Originally a club dedicated to operettas, the group mainly made a permanent switch to musicals in 1969 with the comic hodge-podge The Boyfriend. Performing popular musical theatre classics such as Gypsy and cult classics such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Into the Woods, QMT is not short of variety and relies on viable performers from all disciplines and faculties.

This inclusivity of faculties has surely put many people in the seats of the various productions, but this year QMT has, quite appropriately, a few more seats to fill than it has in recent years. The space at the Grand is a sharp contrast to the teenier stages QMT has used over the past few years.

“We chose the space before the show,” QMT President Andrew McWilliams said. “We originally did shows in the Grand before the renovation and we thought it would be great to return to the space. And just being downtown, it involves the community in a huge way.”

But musical theatre enthusiasts aren’t the only ones eagerly anticipating QMT’s epic return for their anniversary.

“We’re expecting a pretty good turnout,” McWilliams said. “We’re really excited that a lot of our alumni are coming back.”

Despite the pressure that a large audience and big expectations can bring, Richer feels confident.

Richer chose a fittingly infamous show to perform on the Grand stage. Most people have seen some incarnation of the Jekyll and Hyde story—originally a novella published by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886 and has since been re-imagined in various films, radio dramas, plays and the musical—which has been accused of dullness in the past. But Richer has infused QMT’s rendition with his own vision, which is sure to make the return to The Grand Theatre fitting indeed.

“First thing, right off the bat, it’s a spectacle. I think it’s appealing to music theatre lovers and those who don’t particularly like music theatre,” he said.

With a cast of 25 strong, the story focuses on the age-old conflict between good and evil. In an attempt to rid the world of evil, Dr. Jekyll embarks on a series of chemical experiments. Out of the laboratory, Jekyll’s experimentation gives birth to a maniacal alter ego, Mr. Hyde.

“Something I had to keep in mind was the late Victorian, early modern period. I wanted to play up the concept of modernity. The story has a thrill and that sense of darkness that has an appeal to students. However, it has its lighter moments, just like the balance between good and evil,” Richer said with a smirk. —With files from Taylor Burns

QMT’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde opens tonight at The Grand Theatre. Tickets are $22 for students.

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