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Notes on Ripper

A note from the creator, Duane Nelsen:

Duane Nelsen

In the autumn of 1888, five East End London prostitutes were murdered in the span of about 10 weeks. The killer was never found. More than a hundred years later, the mystery of Jack the Ripper’s identity lingers in our consciousness not because we don’t know who he is, but because he could be anyone.

Neighbors, friends, and lovers are all suspects. Some are driven to find the truth. Others stop at nothing to obscure the facts and manipulate the situation to their own advantage. The many ways that people survive in a climate of fear—for better or for worse—is what drives the show and gives it modern relevance.

From the reporter who covers the story and the magician who runs the brothel, to the police and, of course, the prostitutes, an intricate plot unfolds that interweaves magic and mayhem, the lively nightlife of the music halls, and the ever-present danger of a killer lurking in the shadows.

Producing a new musical as large as Ripper requires a courageous producer and an adventurous audience. I’m thrilled to be premiering this new show at Broadway Rose. Join us on this exciting journey into the darkest alleys of Victorian London. But beware: what you see may not be what it seems!

—Duane Nelsen, author/composer

A note from the director, Abe Reybold:

Abe Reybold

I am looking forward to Ripper this summer, as it will be the first time I’m directing a world premiere musical for Broadway Rose Theatre Company.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, we are starting from scratch with script, score, concept, design, costumes, casting requirements, orchestrations, you name it- it’s new and untried. I’ve directed lesser known musicals before and have learned that the less you know about a show can sometimes be liberating. Without the familiarity of an original production, the text along with research and imagination becomes even more essential to solving the creative puzzle that is a show.

Ripper is set in Victorian London in the late 1880s. Previously I have worked on musicals set in the same time and place including Jekyll & Hyde, Sweeney Todd, and Scrooge. My research on those shows has proved helpful with this project and includes a wonderful book by Daniel Pool called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew – From Fox Hunting to Whist – the facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England. (“Whist” by the way, is the ancestor of the card game “Bridge”). One of the most useful books I have is called The Victorians-A World Built to Last. It is a large coffee table book from 1974 and is filled with diverse information and incredible photographs, artwork and illustrations. I am greatly inspired by visual connections. Because the Jack the Ripper Case is so well documented and written about, (Philip Sugden and Paul Begg are recommended) one could read about it for years on end. For the musical, Duane’s twist on the case is historically accurate in many ways but also takes liberties for dramatic effect. The “unsolved” nature lends itself to re-imagining the story and Ripper is a truly exciting and original musical mystery. For those worried about content, it is highly romantic and hardly gruesome. Also magic plays an interesting role in the show so researching Victorian magicians and their methods has been useful. At this point, getting to know the script and score as intimately as possible is my challenge. From there, all creative and pragmatic decisions are made.

The most immediate next step is working with scenic designer Gene Dent to create the world of the play. Using the script, research, necessity and inspiration as a guide, I know it will be an exciting theatrical environment for us to bring Ripper to life. I hope you’ll come and be a part of it!

– Abe Reybold, Director (November 2010)

A note from the music director, Alan D. Lytle:

Alan D. Lytle

The music team is coming together for Ripper this summer!

Duane and I have had ongoing conversations since last summer about the orchestrations for this show. Duane is creating the orchestrations specifically for this world premiere production with Broadway Rose. Our orchestra pit will include 11 local, professional musicians–a record number for a Broadway Rose show!

To get the most color from the orchestra, some of the players will be asked to juggle multiple instruments. We are making decisions now about which instruments each player will play. For example, there’s a woodwind player who will play bassoon, oboe, and some clarinet. We even talked about whether that person should play some accordion in the show as well!

Now we’re getting set for general auditions happening in March. As the cast of the show comes together, we’ll start to see what our production of this show will look and sound like!

Last week, I received new music for a brand new opening sequence for the show. I’m not going to give much away, but let me just say that excitement is high, magic is in the air, and you’re sure to be on the edge of your seat from the first note you hear. We look forward to seeing you this summer at the world premiere of Ripper. See you from the pit!

-Alan D. Lytle, Music Director