Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Photo Essay: The Charleston Theater Event Of The Year

L-R: Donnie Smith,Mara Regling , Ryan Hardiman, Kevin Pauley

It’s “Jack The Ripper,” the new musical from Mark Scarpelli and Dan Kehde, and you only have two more chances to see it, tonight and tomorrow, 8 PM at the WVSU Capitol Center Theater.  If you are a fan of musical theater and you don’t see this show, you will be kicking yourself for years.  After the jump, you’ll get to see more photos from last week’s dress rehearsal, plus some of my additional thoughts on the show.

I can’t officially review this play because I’ve been dating one of the principals (Melanie Larch, seen right as “Mary Kelly”)  for over eighteen years, plus I made a promotional video for the show, but I can tell you that I have seen no other local musical theater event that comes close to “Jack The Ripper.  Scarpelli and Kehde have crafted a sophisticated, complex work, worthy of comparisons to Sondheim. The cast, comprised of a mix of local musical theater veterans and high school students does an amazing job of navigating the uncharted waters of this original work.

It’s a crime that this show has not gotten more publicity. Taking a moment to bite the hand that feeds me, I think the Gazette really dropped the ball not sending anyone to review this show. It’s far more important a work than many recent Gazz cover features (and to be fair, the lack of a review may have been because the natural picks to write such a review are involved in the show in varying degrees, so I hope it wasn’t a deliberate snub). 

Front row L-R:  Donnie Smith, Nick Tidquist, Kevin Pauley, Melanie Larch
Back row L-R: Ryan Hardiman, Liz McCormick

Since my significant other, Melanie Larch, plays Mary Kelly, you may be a bit skeptical of my enthusiasm, but trust me, I’ve sat through a lot of productions that Mel has been involved in over the years, and I’m not always this excited by them. Mel does an incredible job, but so do Kevin Pauley, Tanya Dillon Page, and especially Ryan Hardiman, who assays the role of “Jack.”  All of the performers are clearly thrilled to be part of the world premiere of such a memorable show.

“Harry the Piano Player” (Greg Garner) with the “Ladies of Whitechapel” 

Is the show perfect? Well, no. Not many shows are. “Jack The Ripper” is hampered by a low budget and some insane time constraints (this show was put together and on stage in six week!).  Plus, one can’t help but think of the gag from “Spinal Tap” when told of a musical based on Jack The Ripper, so you have to get past that. There are also some minor narrative bugs that could be worked out, but this is still head and shoulders above anything else being produced in town.  The fact that it’s an original, locally-composed work is even more astonishing. 

 Tanya Dillon Page, Nick Curnutte and Penny Fioravante do a little “editing” on Jack (Ryan Hardiman)

You have to hand it to CYAC.  They could go the safe route and put on a production of a recent Broadway smash or revive an old chestnut, but “Jack The Ripper” is more than that. It’s art. I can only imagine what they could have done with this show if they’d had the budget that the Light Opera Guild has. So go see it. I’m gonna shut up and post a few more photos, sans captions, due to technical difficulties.


  1. Elvis Capone

    That one guy kind of almost looks like Jack Black a little bit.

  2. amyr

    FYI Rudy: We never review CYAC shows. We have a hard enough time rounding up reviewers to cover the other theater groups (which we were reviewing long before CYAC came into existance) and we can’t keep up with CYAC’s output.

    Also, just because we didn’t give this particular show (which you point out you are personally invested in because Mel is in it) an article, we give CYAC a lot of coverage, so we are not snubbing them. If you’ll recall, we gave their original work “The Trial of George W. Bush” the cover earlier this year, and FlipSide has given them extensive coverage over the years.

    — Amy

  3. admin

    You know, one possible idea is to set up a group local or gazz blog of people interested in reviewing, dishing on, describing, keeping up on local theater. That way, anyone who went to a local production could review it. Or a couple of folks really into the local scene could become regular blog reviewers. The blog would have to police itself since people can be either too self-promoting or too cruel as drive-by commenters and trolls are wont to be. But if a group of folks wanted to try it, we might consider hosting such a blog. Just a thought. | Douglas Imbrogno | editor

  4. beautyqueen

    the show was great

  5. Mona

    There was a review in the Gazette of “The Trial of George W. Bush” (I know because I wrote it;) But I was a bit busy playing in the orchestra for this one, had anyone asked.

    Now I need to work up a graceful line for my reviews explaining who I know, have worked with, etc. Not that knowing people will make me afraid of being a cranky old critic;)

    It would be interesting to see a review of Mary…most contemporary shows don’t get to have so many different productions. At this point, one could really comparatively review the performance/production, instead of just the play itself.

    (like in a classical concert…people usually write about the *performance* of the old familiar Mozart symphony, but review the *composition* of a contemporary piece and skip on describing the performance).

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