From 1997-1999, he was the King of Horror on Broadway. Robert Cuccioli, star of the enormously popular musical Jekyll & Hyde at the Plymouth Theatre in Manhattan, thrilled theatre-goers with his electric performance as both Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.
The long-running musical, written by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Briccuse, played to SRO crowds for years, captivating audiences with both the classic storyline and the blockbuster musical numbers.
Cuccioli, who won a Drama Desk Award for his efforts, spoke exclusively with Horror News Network about his run in Jekyll & Hyde as well as his background and future stage plans. Broadway, of course, has been dark during the current Coronavirus crisis, but the veteran actor looks forward to returning to what he loves to do as soon as possible.
When asked if he was familiar with the famous novella by Robert Louis Stevenson before tackling the demanding role, Cuccioli said he read the story, “but I had to read it again before I auditioned for the show. Gothic horror/thrillers had already been set to music before, such as Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd to great success, so I wasn’t apprehensive about adapting the story to a musical format, if it was good…and this one was.”
Fans of the show were especially enthralled by several of the show’s key numbers. Cuccioli said “This Is The Moment,” when Jekyll braces himself to take his life-changing formula, “had elements of fear, yes, and apprehension, yes! Pushing myself into the void of the unknown and pumping myself up and talking myself into how brilliant it would turn out to be. Of course, I personalized this and I have lived through those moments. The lyrics guided me through. It was both scary and exhilarating!”
“Dangerous Game,” which is sung by Hyde and his lover Lucy, is about “raw sexual power and domination,” Cuccioli said. “It’s a risk to put yourself out there like that, but it’s also incredibly liberating. I think that’s what makes this number for many audience members both repellant and exciting at the same time.”
Cuccioli also noted that “Confrontation,” a powerful number near the end of the show that has the actor perform both roles simultaneously, “is the first time that both Jekyll and Hyde show up at the same time. Both fighting for domination over the other. It spanned a full range of emotions. As Jekyll, I was fighting for my life, and as Hyde, I was the more dominant, but also fighting for my life. It was both exciting and scary.”
The actor stressed that all these numbers “required me to live on the edge. It’s a dangerous and exhilarating place to be, no?”
And Cuccioli reentered that dangerous place some years later, as he played the dual role of Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. Did his experiences as Jekyll and Hyde prepare him for this role?
“Superficially, there are similarities. A man turns into a monster via an experiment that goes wrong. But there are vast differences between the roles. While Norman Osborn completely transforms into a creature with great relish and no regrets, the story of Jekyll and Hyde has a meaning on a larger scale. It is the battle of a man for his soul. It is the eternal struggle between good and evil within oneself. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is the battle between good and evil between two different individuals: Spider-Man (good) and the Green Goblin (bad).
And what of Cuccioli’s current and future stage plans? He is currently in production–stalled because of the virus pandemic–for A Touch Of The Poet, a dramatic Broadway role that some may feel is a departure for the actor.
Not necessarily, Cuccioli said. “Actually, this play is not a departure for me. My entire career has spanned many genres of theatre, from musical drama to musical comedy, classic plays to contemporary, both dramatic and comedic. Not to mention TV and films.
“It’s only that much of that work has been done in regional theatre and not as much in New York City. That is what is beginning to change now, and perhaps makes people think this is something new for me.”
So, what sort of roles speak loudest to Cuccioli? Musicals, drama, comedy? “As to performances, it is the character and the piece that attracts me. It doesn’t matter to me if that character sings or not. Meaning, it doesn’t matter to me if the role is in a musical or a play. It’s the role itself I’m attracted to.”
Broadway fans can only hope that many more roles attract Cuccioli in the future.