Jesse Merlin - Selected Reviews

"One particularly ghastly highlight involves a man carrying around his severed head. That head belongs to the spindly, sonorous Jesse Merlin, who shines as a lecherous medical school professor."

    Catherine Rampell, July 19, 2012

"Jesse Merlin as Dr. Carl Hill, the headless antagonist, devours any scene he’s in."

    William Moore, August 23, 2012

"Jesse Merlin as President Dodgeson is just a ring-tailed wonder: Stephen Colbert with Ray Bolger’s limbs and Alfred Drake’s baritone."

    Bob Verini, November 5, 2006

"Comic highlight... executed with dazzling precision... Merlin - like a magician doing close-up work - offered a wonderfully transparent tour de force."

    Joshua Kosman, April 15, 2004

Complete Reviews

Die Fledermaus: Opera San Jose, Sept. 2019

Merlin's Frosch was deprived of the lengthy schtick that usually makes Act III ten minutes too long, but Mr. Merlin's wry, irascible performance made every moment count. Brevity seemed liberating and he scored on every beat."

    James Sohre, Opera Today, September 16, 2019

Silence! The Musical

Produced by Bucket List Theatre at The Actors Company, Los Angeles, Oct-Nov 2018

Jesse Merlin, as Lecter, caresses every word with the desperate seriousness of Jean Valjean or the Phantom... Mr. Merlin is a comic delight with a great set of pipes.

    Samuel Garza Bernstein, Stage and Cinema, October 12, 2018

Hannibal Lecter is slightly camp and gloriously somber. He manipulates everyone perfectly and his baritone reverberates around the stage in god like waves.

    Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros, Noho Arts District, October 15, 2018

The cast is superb. Merlin's Dr. Lecter is electrifying...

    Laura Voeth, Tolucan Times, October 17, 2018

Bass-baritone Jesse Merlin, who is quickly becoming a local horror musical aficionado — he played an unforgettable Dr. Hill in the campy “Re-Animator the Musical” — stars as Hannibal Lecter.

    Margaret Gray, Los Angeles Times 99-seat beat, October 26, 2018

Things truly pick up with the introduction of Jesse Merlin's Dr. Hannibal Lecter ...his song of...interest...for Clarice... is pure brilliance. Hannibal's interest, echoed in the interpretive love dance of the Lambs, is fortunately played straight, subsequently intensely hilarious, and frankly almost outweighs the rest of the show, barring his "It's Me" escape song.

    Stana Milanovich, Discover Hollywood, October 26, 2018

Beyond The Gates

Also bringing a touch of classic horror menace to the film is Elric - the owner of the mysterious shop where the game seems to have originated, or at least appeared. Played by actor (and bass baritone) Jesse Merlin, he's a wonderfully bizarre presence at the heart of a film that stays largely grounded - a young man playing what seems to be an ancient being.... It's a fascinating contrast - Merlin has a touch of Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes crossed with Vincent Price in his poised, arch delivery and is both disturbing and funny.

    Will Salmon, Horrorville Magazine #03, March, 2017

...among BEYOND THE GATES’ highlights... is a brief but extravagant turn by Jesse Merlin as the proprietor of an occult collector’s store, whose final scene references another classic chiller to complete GATES’ heartfelt homage to the joys of that decade past.

    Michael Gingold, Rue Morgue, December 9, 2016

Anche gli elementi di supporto sono fondamentali, a cominciare dalla... perfidamente eccentrico Jesse Merlin.
English: Also the supporting elements are fundamental, beginning with... the wickedly eccentric Jesse Merlin.

    Il Cineocchio, December 11, 2016

Jesse Merlin (Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves) channels Vincent Price in his campy performance as the proprietor of the shop where the game was purchased.

    Alex DiVincenzo, Broke Horror Fan, December 7, 2016

Fright Fest, London, August 2016

The iconically cast Barbara Crampton (paying homage to Barbara Steele) and scene stealing creepy antique shop-keeper Jesse Merlin (channeling Roddy McDowall and Christopher Lee) offer a nostalgic, deliberately arch counterpoint.

    Steven West, Horrorscreams Videovault, November 25, 2016

...Re-Animator: The Musical, it’s his co-star in that same show who steals the spotlight. Jesse Merlin (the voice of F.A.N.G. in Street Fighter V, don’tcha know) plays creepy shopkeeper Elric with such elegant stoicism he practically glides across the screen, intoning lines like "Only the game has the answers you seek" with an intense, and hilarious, earnestness.

He might only making a fleeting appearance, but Merlin is the standout in a film of terrific performances, well-matched by Skipper’s non-believer and his two slightly more open-minded cohorts. The biggest argument for a Beyond The Gates sequel, aside from the obvious, would be to see Elric in all his glory again.

    Joey Keogh, Wicked Horror, September 9, 2016

"Boasting a host of impressive kills and one of the festival’s finest performances from Jesse Merlin as eccentric shopkeeper Elric, this is a bizarre fusion of mumblecore comedy drama and B-movie kills that wrong foots your expectations every step of the way."

    Mitch Bain, Shock Street Horror, September 2, 2016

"...there’s also great turn from Jesse Merlin as the suavely sinister owner of a curiosity shop..."

    Jennie Kermode, Eye For Film, August 28, 2016

Los Angeles Film Festival, June 2016

Not to be outdone, Jesse Merlin soaks up every single moment he’s onscreen, crafting an ultra creepy shop owner who seems to have some sort of unexplained intel about the game. Merlin is both unsettling and hilarious, proving that we should be seeing him in a lot more projects than he’s been a part of so far.

    Kalyn Corrigan, Bloody Disgusting, June 8, 2016

The supporting cast includes Jesse Merlin, who’s deliciously channeling the imaginary love child of Roddy McDowall and Vincent Price...

    Staci Layne Wilson, Dread Central, June 8, 2016

Further fodder for diehard genre fans is provided by a cast almost entirely consisting of faces familiar from other B horrors... Jesse Merlin, who has toiled in numerous campy stage and screen horror musicals, and here plays a suitably macabre curiosity-shop owner.

    Dennis Harvey, Variety, June 19, 2016 hell of an odd shop keeper (played excellently by RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL's Jesse Merlin.

    Derek Smith, Icons of Fright, June 10, 2016

Grimmfest, Manchester, October 2016

There are also some nice supporting turns by Barbara Crampton looking stunning as usual as the host of the video game and Jesse Merlin gloriously over the top as an occult store owner (“Do you like……board games?”).

    James Pemberton, UK Horror Scene, October 25, 2016

Monster Fest (Australia), November 2016

...Jesse Merlin's shopkeeper character adds some surreal comedy to the proceedings.

    Sean W. Fallon, Audiences Everywhere, November 25, 2016

Street Fighter V

F.A.N.G, English Voice Actor, Capcom/New Generation Pictures, Feb 2016

I actually found myself despising F.A.N.G at one point during the cinematics… mostly due to the amazing voice acting by Jesse Merlin.

    Mike Ryan, Warp Zoned, November 21 2016

As Shadaloo’s lieutenant and the mastermind behind the events the game, F.A.N.G is Street Fighter‘s best ever villain. He’s flamboyant and fun to watch on screen, while also creepy and despicably evil. The performance and animation behind him are the most entertaining thing about this story, and that’s partly due to Jesse Merlin’s phenomenal voicing of the character.

    Kenny Ukpona, The Kenpire, July 9, 2016

Richard III, Eclectic Company Theater, 7-8/2015

Ultimately, it’s Richard (Jon Mullich) and Buckingham (Jesse Merlin) who steal the show.... The exceptional Jesse Merlin plays Buckingham with a steely cold gravitas that’s both subtle and menacing. As Richard’s right-hand man, Merlin’s chilly demeanor stands in stark contrast to Mullich’s more expressive flair for the dramatic. Two sides of the same coin, the actors successfully play off each other’s strengths.

    Chris Manning, Life in LA, August 1, 2015

Erstwhile cohort, Buckingham, who has conspired with Richard in his murderous rise has an almost cynical loyalty toward Richard... Jesse Merlin is excellent in the role as he depicts a genuine change of heart and flees for his life knowing how Richard might retaliate for his defiance.

    Jose Ruiz, ReviewPlays, July, 2015

Other noteworthy performances are turned in by... Jesse Merlin as Buckingham.

    Lovell Estell III, Stage Raw, July 31, 2015

Re-Animator: The Musical, The Smith Center (Las Vegas), January 2015

Dr. Hill, Dr. West's nemesis, is beautifully sung by Jesse Merlin.

    Ellen Sterling, BroadwayWorld Las Vegas, January 14, 2015

...Jesse Merlin as foil Dr. Hill was perfectly appalling. Their tango-styled confrontation (ending in a beheading-by-shovel) was a high point.

    Jacob Coakley, Las Vegas Weekly, January 14, 2015

...the operatically trained, uproariously over-the-top Jesse Merlin...

    Carol Cling, Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 7, 2015

Re-Animator: The Musical, Steve Allen Theater, Oct-Nov 2014

Jesse Merlin is equally up to the task of filling the giant shoes David Gale left behind in the role of Dr. Hill. Alternately haughty and stuck-up, and then menacing and verrrry creepy, his performance is a delight. His strong basso profundo just drips with equal parts condescension and duplicity.

    Mike Hansen, Horror Buzz April 30, 2015

Jesse Merlin was unforgettable as seedy Dr. Hill, who could belt out his songs with or without his head attached to his body.

    Suzanne Birrell, Discover Hollywood October 20, 2014

Jesse Merlin, on the other hand, makes Dr. Hill a much less pleasant kind of creepy, a sleazy antagonist that you love to hate.

    Steven W. Alloway, Life in LA, November 4, 2014

The Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood Fringe, June 2014

Jesse Merlin once again proves that funny is his middle name, this time bringing Lawson's oddball boss, JP Governs, a devotee of Vlad the Impaler, to quirky life.

    Ellen Dostal, Broadway World June 28, 2014

Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera, King King, February 2014

Michael Shepperd and Jesse Merlin were effectively humorous as Shawn Eckhardt and Shane Stant, the criminals who did the deed...

    Katie Buenneke, LA Weekly February 7, 2014

Sketches from the National Lampoon, Hayworth Theatre, Feb.-March 2013

The rubber-faced Jesse Merlin needs to do very little but stare forward as he plays a poor schlub who periodically returns to ruminate about a fondness for playing with dead pigeons and his attraction to his wife's mother, who smells tantalizingly like Vanilla Ensure.

    Travis Michael Holder, Backstage February 17, 2013

Jesse Merlin pulls some delightfully funny faces, never failing to crack the audience up with one of his recurring characters, a man whose wife is sleeping with everyone else in the show.

    Katie Buenneke , Neon Tommy February 27 2013

Peer Gynt, San Francisco Symphony, January 2013

The king is played by scarily whimsical Jesse Merlin.

    Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News January 19 2013

Silence! The Musical, Hayworth Theatre, Sept.-Dec. 2012

Jesse Merlin (from Re-Animator: The Musical) is dashingly charming as the Wile E. Coyote character of Dr. Chilton. The poor guy can never catch a break and gets shut down at every turn, but he's plucky. He never gives up, and can he ever hold a note (if not his pen).

    Staci Layne Wilson, October 26 2012

Re-Animator: The Musical, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 2012

...Jesse Merlin as Dr. Carl Hill, the headless antagonist, devours any scene he's in.

    William Moore, London Evening Standard, August 23 2012

Jesse Merlin's Hill is the archetypal bad guy, sung and performed with complete plausibility. Hill's demise in the show is as gruesome as it is hilarious.

    Jonathan Grant, Public Reviews, August 2012

Equal to West's intensity, Dr. Hill's (Jesse Merlin) camped up sleaze make him a truly despicable pantomime-esque villain.

    Suzy Pope, Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, August 4 2012

Opera singer Jesse Merlin belts out a Tom Lehrer-esque number about the human brain and mimes something unspeakable.... Operatic Jesse, who has been decapitated but is still impressively loud, albeit his head is now in his hands.

    Kate Copstick, The Scotsman, August 4 2012

Re-Animator: The Musical, New York Musical Theatre Festival, July 2012

One particularly ghastly highlight involves a man carrying around his severed head. That head belongs to the spindly, sonorous Jesse Merlin, who shines as a lecherous medical school professor.

    Catherine Rampell, New York Times, July 19 2012

Director Stuart Gordon's staging serves the nonsensical material up with zealous flair, and he has elicited a host of memorable performances from the company, particularly from... Jesse Merlin, who brings blisteringly funny creepy lecherousness to his turn as a faculty member with a penchant for plagiarizing other scientists' work.

    Andy Propst, TheaterMania, July 19 2012

Particular standouts are Jesse Merlin as the creepy Dr. Carl Hill, a rival medical school neurosurgeon who floats around the stage with a sly, ghoulish look on his face.

    Eric Sundermann, Village Voice, July 18 2012

Jesse Merlin exhibits a rich baritone and a gleeful relish in villainy as the diabolical Dr. Hill.

    David Sheward, Backstage, July 19 2012

Self-satisfied, spooky in his own grandly slower way is Dr. Hill, accused by West to be dishonest and a thief of intellectual property. Matching Skipper's snippy West in diabolical doings and unending condescending defending of his ways is instructor Dr. Hill, played with panache by Jesse Merlin. It's a brilliant asset to have the role sung by an operatic bass with rollingly rich, deep tones. He scores some of the best roars of laughter, with and without his head, or with only his head.

    Rob Lester, NiteLife Exchange, July 2012

Best - or worst - of all is the evil Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin, in fine voice), who tries to steal the formula.... The scene in which Herbert kills and then decapitates Dr. Hill is the highlight of the evening.

    Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post, July 20 2012

Merlin is creepy perfect as the crazed doctor, and his operatic voice is the most impressive.

    John Soltes, Hollywood Soapbox, July 21 2012

Re-Animator: The Musical, Hayworth Theatre, April-May 2012

More sinister than any corpse is the nefarious Dr. Hill (played by Jesse Merlin), who wants the formula - and the girl, for himself.... The production is carried by two show-stealing performances. As Dr. Hill, Jesse Merlin rises above the horror and sight-gags with a tremendously funny and disturbing performance. Both performers walk the fine line between camp and commitment perfectly and always have a wink and a nod to the audience ready to keep us aware of the kind of show we're watching.

    Mike Martin,, May 15 2012

The scene stealer was undoubtedly Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin). Merlin was the perfect comic villain. His reverberating operatic voice was dastardly and the audience easily believes he would do anything to have his way with pretty Dean Halsey's daughter. We couldn’t help but laugh at his delusion every time he makes a dirty old man move on Avery.

    Carren Jao, LA, I'm Yours, May 1 2012

In fact everyone in the cast is excellent, but I must mention the two standouts... The ridiculously talented Jesse Merlin (Dr. Hill) who loses his head over Megan and...absolutely steals the show.

    Joan & John Schwartz,, May 26 2012

Jesse Merlin is a hilariously creepy Dr. Hill.

    Matt Blackwood, Geekscape, May 3 2012

Jesse Merlin is wonderfully oily as Herbert's nemesis, Dr. Carl Hill, who lusts after Meg and Herbert's work. The way they retain Carl Hill losing his head literally and still playing a major role in the musical, is a nifty bit of stage magic.

    Pat Jankiewicz, Nuke the Fridge, May 22 2012

Jesse Merlin as Dr. Hill alternately creeps you out, then sings like a commanding operatic lead baritone.

    Matt Blackwood, CultureSpot LA, May 11 2012

Merlin's pompous Dr. Hill is full of the cocky assurance of a man who doesn't know he's wearing a really bad toupee.

    Ellen Dostal, BroadwayWorld, May 18 2012

Re-Animator: The Musical, Steve Allen Theater, February-August 2011

Jesse Merlin steals the show as the lecherous Dr. Carl Hill, a bewigged lothario with a penchant for stolen serums and restrained blonds. His extraordinary baritone reaches all the way to the back rows and adds to this immersive effect.

    Chris Nichols, Los Angeles Magazine, May 23 2011

But it's Jesse Merlin who steals every scene with his leering, preening academic, exhibiting astonishing verbal and physical dexterity.

    Jenelle Riley, Backstage, April 27 2011

The vocal standout among the group is Jesse Merlin, who maintains a steady vibrato while physically contorting himself to become the headless antagonist, Dr. Hill.

    Ben Hethcoat, Gores Truly, April 24 2011

It is Jesse Merlin as West's nemesis, Dr. Hill, who best exemplifies why Re-Animator stays grounded during all of the excess; Merlin is equipped with a rich baritone and an earnestness one would expect in a heavy drama; the gravity of his performance is mandatory if we are to accept that he puts his vivisected head between the legs of…no, no, no, you've got to see this to believe it.

    Tony Frankel,, April 2 2011

Jesse Merlin's vocal stylings create a richly villainous portrait that sustains itself despite the indignities of scene-stealing mutilations.

    Myron Meisel, The Hollywood Reporter, March 24 2011

With his booming operatic voice and hilariously arch line readings, Merlin delivers a performance as memorable and outrageous as the arterial spray that soaks the audience throughout the play.

    Joseph McCabe, FEARnet, March 24 2011

Stand-out Jesse Merlin (Dr. Hill) boldly embraces his over-the-top operatic voice like a Canadian Mountie of the cine-serialized 1930s.

    Craig Parish,, March 20 2011

Merlin, who also starred at the brilliant and semi-operatic "The Beastly Bombing" at this same theater, has a magnificent baritone that makes the score soar.

    Don Shirley, LA Stage times, March 15 2011

Merlin gives a bravura performance as the sleazy Dr. Hill, creepily hitting on Meg in multiple inappropriate ways, and giving the play a bracing dose of aural bombast via his operatic voice... George Wendt's duet with Merlin, after Halsey has been somewhat impaired, is an instant classic.

    Terry Morgan,, March 11 2011

The most side-splitting moments belong to Jesse Merlin who dons a David Gale wig as West's antagonist, Dr Hill. You haven't lived until you've seen a decapitated head sing and his interactions with Graham Skipper are pure comedy gold.

    Andrew Kasch,, March 11 2011

Overall, the cast lacks the vocal plushness of riotously operatic Jesse Merlin as obsessive Dr. Hill -- the standout turn...

    David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times, March 10 2011

Jesse Merlin, as the villain of the piece, Dr. Carl Hill, plays the role for everything it's worth, producing edgy comedy with a well-placed leering sideways glance or dismissive aristocratic grumble. For most of the second act Merlin's character is in fact, headless, but it hardly seems to affect his operatic bass baritone vocals. Truly the guy is the Paul Lynde of his generation, but with a preposterously good singing voice. Who would forget this fellow with the mellow bellow having seen him perform only once (and headless)?

    Richard Metzger,, 10th March 2011

A decapitation is pulled off with aplomb, but the real giggle is how victim Dr. Hill (the deliciously smarmy Jesse Merlin) manages to sustain his lecherous lust for power while toting around his (singing) head at mid-thorax.

    Bob Verini, Variety, March 9 2011

But the standout performance here must be that of Jesse Merlin as Dr. Hill, the twisted scientist who seeks to steal West's work and Megan's heart -- at any cost. Merlin is capable of contorting his expressive face into some wonderfully droll expressions, while maintaining a sense of authority and funereal menace. He redefines his character more so than any other performer, and he earns the play's biggest laughs. His tango scene with West is a particular hoot.

    Joseph McCabe, FEARnet, March 9 2011

But it is Jesse Merlin as Dr. Hill that truly makes the show. At first, he is just the calmly weird professor that butts heads with Herbert. His longing for the Dean's daughter is hilarious (especially when sung) and when he - -ahem - loses his head, the special effect and the continuing nuttiness of his character are hilarious to watch and listen to. I smell an Ovation award!

    Kevin Taft, EDGE Los Angeles, March 8 2011

The actors are all wonderful and completely get the tone of play, possibly none more so than Jesse Merlin who f***ing nails it as Dr. Hill.... And the decapitation scene with Dr. Hill was marvelously fun - as was Jesse Merlin's performance inside the wheeled costume that made it appear as though he were a decapitated zomboid carrying his own singing head.

    Joshua Miller,, March 7 2011

Then there was the outstandingly eerie Jesse Merlin as Dr. Carl Hill, when he slips in love overtones to Meg, as well as his turn as a disembodied head - making him twice the villain he once was. Both Graham Skipper and Merlin have commanding singing voices, capable of booming resonance that adds to the thrill.

    Gerald Everett Jones, LA Splash, March 6 2011

Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin), a wonderfully sinister shrink with a big operatic voice.... winds up with his head in his stomach but he keeps singing in that glorious bass voice, and I still don't know how it's done.... Gordon reserves the most fun for Dr. Hill. He remains in nasty character throughout and sings gloriously from the pit of his stomach.

    Laura Hitchcock, CurtainUp, March 5 2011

Merlin channels his best inner David Gale - with the assistance of a salt 'n pepper shaded wig - and really shines as Hill; plus, you've got to hand it to the guy for singing and moving about the stage while trying to pull off the effect that he's holding his own head.

    Ryan Turek,, February 28 2011

USS Pinafore, Crown City Theatre, May-August 2010

Jesse Merlin's Captain Corcoran is magnificent, the embodiment of swagger, with facial muscles locked into a smirk and a voice that that just keeps going.

    Steven Leigh Morris, LA Weekly 24th May 2010

The Good Soldier Schweik, Long Beach Opera, January 2010

Jesse Merlin, he of the smooth acting and sonorous bass-baritone familiar from past LBO productions, was hilarious as a nurse (female) whose default treatment option is the enema (don't ask).

    Jim Ruggirello, Grunion Gazette 27th January 2010

Carved in Stone, Theatre Asylum, June-August, 2009 can't help but marvel at Jesse Merlin's portrait of Oscar Wilde, with a wonderful bass voice and the ultimate gentlemanly decorum.

    Jose Ruiz,, 7th July 2009

...Merlin's Wilde is played out with impeccable hauteur and comic timing.

    Neal Weaver, Backstage, 24th June 2009

Merlin captures the dry, aloof wit of Wilde...

    Les Spindle, Frontiers Magazine, July 17, 2009

Jesse Merlin's brilliant Oscar Wilde is forever dropping one of his trademark quips... Wilde's iconic quotes land like bad puns after which the actor, in grand style, raises his chin with a dismissive scowl and looks menacingly about to see if anyone will dare try to one-up him.

    Trevor Thomas, EDGE Los Angeles, 24th June 2009

Merlin's walk on the Wilde side is a droll stroll. He dispenses Oscar's bon mots with a charming grace.

    Mike Buzzelli, Eye Spy LA, 25th June 2009

...Jesse Merlin was pitch perfect as everyone's favorite dandy, Oscar Wilde.

    Marianne Fritz,, 28th June 2009

Jesse Merlin as the caustic and snobbish Wilde is deliciously delightful.

    Pat Taylor, Tolucan Times, 1st July 2009

The Emperor of Atlantis & The Clever Woman, Long Beach Opera, May, 2009

Merlin impressed with his gravitas and the effortless power of his dark-hued instrument.

    Michael Van Duzer, Stage Happenings, 26th May 2009

Exemplary, too, was Jesse Merlin as the Loudspeaker and a vagabond.

    Jim Ruggirello, Grunion Gazette 13th May 2009.

The Beastly Bombing, Opera aan het Ij (Amsterdam), February-March 2009.

De zangers waren stuk voor stuk goed, met een paar uitschieters wat betreft acteren. Jesse Merlin, die ook in de Amerikaanse voorstellingen de president speelde, steelt de show door zijn droogkomische stijfheid en zijn perfecte tongue in cheek.

English: All the singers were good, but there were a few who really peaked as actors. Jesse Merlin, who also played the role of the president in the American production, steals the show with his wry stiffness and his perfect tongue in cheek.

    Anthony Fiumara, De Trouw, 21st February 2009.

Jesse Merlin, die maakte zijn eigen rol, en vertolkt de president ook uitstekend met een sterk gevoel voor timing, en een mooi en helder stemgeluid.

English: Jesse Merlin, who created his own role, gives a first-rate rendering of the president with a strong sense of timing and a lovely vivid voice.

    Jeroen Schat,, 21st February 2009.

Uitzondering is Jesse Merlin. Niet alleen steekt hij qua zang boven iedereen uit, ook zijn acteerprestaties zijn sterk.

English: Jesse Merlin is exceptional. Not only is he above everyone in singing, but his acting performance is strong.

    Annelies Omvlee, Theater Journaal, 20th February 2009

The Cunning Little Vixen, Long Beach Opera, January, 2009

Jesse Merlin's booming voice stood out in the role of the Parson...

    Jim Ruggirello, Grunion Gazette 18th February 2009

Jesse Merlin sings a lonely and passionate parson...

    John Farrell, Long Beach Press-Telegram 21st January 2009.

The Beastly Bombing, The Steve Allen Theater and The New York Musical Theater Festival, July 2006-October 2007

Jesse Merlin puts in a charismatic star turn as the vain, sex-obsessed, militaristic president.

    Rod Stanley, Dazed & Confused Magazine, December 2007

Jesse Merlin as President Dodgeson is just a ring-tailed wonder: Stephen Colbert with Ray Bolger's limbs and Alfred Drake's baritone.

    Robert Verini, Variety Magazine, 5th November 2006

Writer-director Julien Nitzberg's wittiest and most satirical writing is superbly acted by Jesse Merlin. Merlin exquisitely portrays President Dodgeson as a cross between President Bush and an immoral, cowardly Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce.

    Rambod Behnam, The Los Angeles Loyolan, 19th October 2006

Merlin wisely avoids a warmed-over George W. Bush caricature and instead piles on the basso profundo that's just right for the egotistical head of the self-absorbed nation... At his best, Merlin�s manner and voice suggest the drop-dead seriousness of a dynamic divo...

    Matthew Murray, Talkin' Broadway, October 2007

Jesse Merlin is full of brio as President Dodgeson...

    Duncan Pflaster, Broadway World, 6th October, 2007

Lost in Hollywoodland, New York International Fringe Festival, August 2007

Jesse Merlin's turn as a Shakespearean has-been gone Hollywood takes the statue for the night. Equally silly and refined, he hits the highest note of truth and humor when he quips, "We are all stars trying to work our way back into the chorus."

    Chris Harcum,, 10th August 2007

Don Giovanni, Opera San Jose, April 2006

...Leporello, sung by Opera San Jose bass-baritone Jesse Merlin, is the finest characterization he has achieved in many roles with the company. The chemistry between the hapless, long-suffering Leporello and the rakish Don is palpable and delightful.

    Mort Levine, The Milpitas Post, 4th May 2006

...bass-baritone Jesse Merlin is hilarious as Leporello, Giovanni's spineless sidekick.... that long experience of being onstage together has a lot to do with the success of "Giovanni." The comic rapport between (Joseph) Wright and Merlin grows out of shared experience...

    Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News, 24th April 2006

Jesse Merlin's Leporello dealt well with the extensive stage demands on the role.

    Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice, 2nd May 2006

The Marriage of Figaro, Opera San Jose, Sept.-Oct. 2004

...penetrating voice... Merlin's voice cut through the orchestra, hitting the balcony with greater impact than anyone in the cast.

    Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News, 20th Sept. 2004
The smaller roles were handled with aplomb... (like) Jesse Merlin's dynamic Doctor Bartolo.
    Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 21st September 2004

Die Fledermaus, Opera San Jose, April-May 2004

The jokes are fine-tuned, the emotions deftly rendered... Nowhere was that more evident than in Tuesday's comic highlight, an extended bit of silent stage business executed with dazzling precision by bass Jesse Merlin as the prison warden Frank. Arriving at the prison still drunk from the evening's festivities at Orlofsky's villa, Frank attempts to change out of his party clothes and into his work outfit, and in those few minutes Merlin -- like a magician doing close-up work -- offered a wonderfully transparent tour de force.

    Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 15th April 2004

Jesse Merlin proved a standout actor and comedian at the party and later as the seriously hung-over jail commander, topping off both with a fine basso.

    Scott MacClelland, Metro, 21st April 2004

Another standout is resident artist Jesse Merlin, a bass, who took on the role of the jail warden who likes to party.

    Mort Levine, The Milpitas Post, 15th April 2004

...bass Jesse Merlin does a Chaplin-esque turn in his underwear...

    Mike Guersch, San Jose Mercury News, 13th April 2004

The Pearl Fishers, Opera San Jose, Jan.-Feb. 2004

...Merlin still demands attention with that impressively vibrant and masculine bass voice.

    Keith Kreitman, Oakland Tribune, 5th February 2004

Don Pasquale, Opera San Jose, September 2003

As the old miser, Jesse Merlin was a delight of genuine pantalone schtick. Physically and vocally, Merlin gave a superb performance.

    Paul Myrvold, Out and About Magazine, October 2003

In the title role, bass-baritone Jesse Merlin played surprisingly well off Rubalcava.... adept physically, playing the usually corpulent Don Pasquale as a shaky little old man and finding just about every bit of funny business in the libretto... Merlin is a good reason to see the opening night cast.

...Merlin's performance, full of body language and funny business, gave the opening night performance Saturday much of its ardor...

The manner in which Pasquale buys into the sham marriage is even funnier than the torment. Relishing the prospect of a young, innocent bride, the sexagenarian [sic] shucks a tunic like a flasher opening his raincoat. Merlin's duck-walking little old man is reminiscent of the old Italian fellow in a current commercial who enters his delighted wife's boudoir shaking a can of "Vigoroso" and twirling his mustache. Later, conversely, Merlin's devastation is touching.'s hard to imagine... a more distinctive Pasquale than Merlin.

...the Merlin gamble is a memorable success.

    Colin Seymour, San Jose Mercury News, 8-9 Sept. 2003
Merlin, as the wealthy old bachelor desperately in search of a young wife, was right on the mark. The sympathy he evoked in Act II caused one to wonder if Rubalcava's portrayal of the "one night bride" might not have been overly coquettish.
    Perry Kennan, Piedmont Post, 17th September 2003
Also impressive is 26-year-old [sic] Merlin's transformation into the characterization of frail, rickety, disjointed, semi-senile 70-year-old Pasquale.
    Keith Kreitman, San Mateo County Times, 9th Sept. 2003
Playing Pasquale, the miser who forsakes his nephew's romantic wishes in order to take a new, young wife himself, bass Jesse Merlin deploys more old-man tics and gestures than Tim Conway. And yet he manages to inspire genuine sympathy when Pasquale is literally slapped down by his shrewish bride.
    Michael J. Vaughn, The Metro, 11th September 2003
...Merlin was able to create a cartoon version of an old man, something he did very well with a comically exaggerated stiff-jointed walk and other broadly sketched physical charactersitics.
    Kelly Snyder, Concerto Net, 16th September 2003

Faust, Opera San Jose, November 2002
Jesse Merlin is perfectly cast as Mephistopheles. He makes for a stylized, stereotypical devil.... Merlin's performance was consistent and his acting appropriate.... Everything about his persona and his costume has been manipulated in favor of creating a convincing and charming devil.
    Nikki Buechler, San Francisco Classical Voice, 11th November 2002
In creating a dashing devil, Merlin, a first-year resident with Opera San Jose, carried off the major role with graceful aplomb and appropriate sliminess.
    Mort Levine, The Milpitas Post, 14th November 2002

La Boheme, West Bay Opera, May-June 2002
Jesse Merlin's goofy, convivial Benoit worked beautifully, making of the landlord a credible if naive character, wonderfully different from the doddering fool one usually sees played.
    Kelly Snyder, Mountain View Voice, 31st May 2002

Madama Butterfly, Opera San Jose, April-May 2002
Bass-baritone Jesse Merlin was very impressive, both in acting and singing in his brief appearance as Butterfly's rich suitor, Prince Yamadori...
    Keith Kreitman, San Mateo County Times, 19th April 2002

Manon, Opera San Jose, February 2002
Jesse Merlin rounded out the main cast with a very impressive Count des Grieux...
    Keith Kreitman, Oakland Tribune, 11th February 2002

Faust, West Bay Opera, October 2001
Jesse Merlin's big baritone as Wagner... rounded out the cast with youthful, energetic performance and solid vocalism.
    Kelly Snyder, Concerto Net, 20th October 2001

The Mikado, Lamplighters, July-August 2001
This was in time to thoroughly enjoy the second act entrance of the resplendently attired Mikado, played and sung by Jesse Merlin. The 23-year-old bass from Opera San Jose reminded this reviewer of Samuel Ramey. When he was on stage, the rest of the cast and the audience felt it. He sang, scowled, smiled, strutted and danced as if he were thoroughly enjoying himself.
    Perry Kennan, Piedmont Post, 28th August 2001
The Mikado (Jesse Merlin) is a refreshingly carefree sadist ("Let the Punishment Fit the Crime").
    Erin Blackwell, San Francisco Frontiers, 9th August 2001
...the second act whizzes by in comparison as the plot thickens and Jesse Merlin, the opening night Mikado, shows off his John-Travolta-in-"Battlefield Earth" laugh.
    Vicki Walker, Oakland Tribune, 31st July 2001

La Boheme, Opera San Jose, April-May 2001
...Jesse Merlin stole the show for the few moments he was on stage as Benoit, the money-grubbing landlord.
    Sarah Bobson, Oakland Tribune, 23rd April 2001

H.M.S. Pinafore, Lamplighters, July-August 2000
Jesse Merlin, as Boatswain's Mate, shone in the "British tar" trio and in his solo, "He is an Englishman." Merlin had such a fine baritone voice -- indeed, one of the best voices in the cast -- that I wondered why he had such a small role. Had the director deemed him too young and handsome to play Dick Deadeye?
    Heather Hadlock, San Francisco Classical Voice, 28th July 2000

Iolanthe, Stanford Savoyards, April-May 2000
Jesse Merlin is the evening's most distinctive performer as Lord Mountararat, one of the buffoonish Peers. His singing about the doltish qualities of his social group is one of the show's best moments.
    John Angell Grant, Palo Alto Daily News, 1st May 2000

Pirates of Penzance, Stanford Savoyards, November 1999
On the lower end of things, the Savoyards offer up some real vocal firepower- namely... Jesse Merlin, who lent a basso profundissimo to the Sergeant of Police.
    Michael J. Vaughn , Palo Alto Weekly, 12th November 1999

Princess Ida, Stanford Savoyards, April-May 1999
...Merlin followed by tackling some impressive neo-baroque baritone runs in "This helmet, I suppose..."
    Michael J. Vaughn , Palo Alto Weekly, 30th April 1999