For a limited engagement, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will both be frum.
David Yudell, an Orthodox Jew, will be playing the lead role in SUNY Westbury’s production of “Jekyll & Hyde.” There will be no understudy for Yudell and when he rests on the seventh day, so will the theater.
“I appreciate that [the producers] believe in my talent enough that they wanted me,” Yudell said.
Yudell, who attends the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, is a 20-year veteran of the stage. He grew up in an unaffiliated Conservative home in Upstate New York. His theater career hit a roadblock when he became observant after he met his wife, a religious Jew from Afghanistan. Like many other Orthodox performers, Yudell faced a dilemma: violate the Sabbath or forfeit his career.
Yudell decided to do neither and played small roles while working in a real-estate brokerage to “support the yehiva and house habit.” He was discovered by the producers of the production while he performed in a theater in Queens. The producers offered him what he calls, “the role of a lifetime,” and since he could not play on Friday night or the Saturday matinee agreed to not hold performances.
“That’s why it’s so important for the Jewish community to support [the production],” Yudell said. “They sacrificed by putting me in.”
The musical, based on the novella by Robert Luis Stevenson, played for four years on Broadway before closing in 2001.
Yudell believes that if the performance is successful it opens the door to other Orthodox performers.
“It gives people behind me a chance to perform,” Yudell said, though he still hopes to make it to Broadway. “I’ve never done Phantom.”
Jekyll & Hyde will be playing on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from Feb. 3 to Feb. 20. For more information contact Linda Koegel at 516-489-0753.