The unsolved mystery of Jack the Ripper has provided constant fascination for people around the world ever since the grisly murders were committed. The failure of Scotland Yard to find the killer has encouraged innumerable historians, enthusiasts and writers to come forward and attempt to find a solution. DHK Productions’ Jack and I joins an abundance of fictional explorations of this famous case.
This is certainly a new approach to the Ripper myth and could have been amusing in a fun, undergraduate style, but was let down by hammy, self-conscious acting.
Jack and I focuses on Inspector Frederick Abberline (Chris Chalmers), one of the real-life detectives in charge of the case. Dogged by comparisons to great detectives like the fictional Sherlock Holmes and faced with his continuing failure, Abberline is mentally and emotionally tested by the Ripper. An ensemble cast of three portray by the other characters, including sex workers, an Irish reporter and Abberline’s wives.
Despite its source material, Jack and I is not the grim gothic tale one might expect. While still ostensibly set in Victorian England, writer Daniel Henry Kaes tries for comedy through anachronisms in language; a film noir edge to certain scenes and musical references to Les Misérables. This is certainly a new approach to the Ripper myth and could have been amusing in a fun, undergraduate style, but was let down by hammy, self-conscious acting. When the show reaches for a serious ending, mixed with elements of horror and Freudian analysis, the result is uneven and unconvincing.
Chalmers’ tenor is pleasant and he performs his songs with considerable skill. Abberline’s duet with the Ripper was a particularly confident number. The music is generally enjoyable, with an easy-listening, pop feel, but the lyrics are not as witty as they could be and offer little insight. Some of the singers were vocally weak, even in the small studio space.
A minimalist set of moveable blocks could have been abandoned as they did little to materially change the space and simply took up time in between scenes as cast members shifted them. Some choreography was attempted in the musical numbers; however it felt hampered by the small performance space.
There is certainly interest and potential in the idea of a Jack the Ripper musical. Overall, unfortunately, Jack and I felt like a good idea executed badly.