REVIEW: 1812 Theatre Company in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, Old Meeting House, Helmsley Arts Centre, July 5 to 9 ***

Natasha Jones’s Lucy Harris and Joe Gregory’s Dr Jekyll in 1812 Theatre Company’s Jekyll & Hyde The Musical. All pictures: Helmsley Arts Centre, Joe Coughlan Phtography

IN their 30th anniversary year, Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident troupe, the 1812 Theatre Company, staged a musical for the first time.

The Old Meeting House stage is not the biggest, yet still Julie Lomas’s cast could accommodate 22 players in that compact space, with the full company number Murder! Murder! being one of the highpoints for cast and choreographer Michaela Edens alike.

Lomas is an experienced directorial hand from her days at The Grange Theatre, Walsall, where she directed Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s Broadway musical for the Grange Players. Likewise, musical director John Atkin had filled the same role for York Musical Theatre Company in May last year.

Know-how and experience duly combined with fresh ideas to good effect in this musical retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella of love, betrayal and murder.

Sarah Barker’s brothel madam, Aunt, in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

Two keyboards, guitar and drums took care of business with panache, Atkin and cohorts Cameron McArthur, Paul McArthur and Joe Brooks being equally at home with big ballads in the Lloyd Webber mode and the sly wickedness shared with Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.

Sue Elm, Michael Goslin and Peter Ives’s set was built on two levels, both of them busy with human traffic in the ensemble numbers but best suited to the duets and profusion of solo numbers. Dr Henry Jekyll’s laboratory had to be rather squeezed in at the back but thankfully Joe Gregory is whippet slim.

The Gothic colour scheme of red walls and black doors was particularly effective when matched by the attire of the Victorian prostitutes of the Red Rat, and the use of masks was striking too.

This was CharlesHutchPress’s first encounter with Joe Gregory, and what an impressive lead performance he gave as the handsome/devil conflation of the upstanding, urbane but obsessive Jekyll and vengeful, sadistic, deranged alter ego Hyde welled up from within, once the doctor dares to dabble in reckless scientific experimentation in the cause of research for mental illness.

Joe Gregory’s urbane but obsessive Dr Jekyll

No Hammer Horror histrionics to report here on the journey to the dark side and an inner struggle between good and evil, scientific learning and carnal carnage. Instead, Gregory became more forceful of voice and manner, his movements staccato, stealthy and seductive, his actions ruthless, as brisk and lean as a bull fighter beneath a cocked hat.

The contrast was greater in his singing of the largely narrative songs, where notes would be deliberately strained in Hyde’s more urgent, guttural delivery, never more so than in The Confrontation, the Act Two vocal wrestling match for control in this dangerously dual personality.

It cannot be every arts centre where the artistic director (and youth theatre director to boot) happens to be the stand-out singer and actress for the resident company too. Step forward Natasha Jones, who was a knockout as Lucy Harris, the love-struck but self-protective prostitute, at once feisty but fearful and vulnerable.

What a voice; what expressiveness.  Each and every one of Lucy’s solo songs was better for her singing it, having first teased and tantalised provocatively among the saucy prostitutes in Bring On The Men.

Natasha Jones’s Lucy Harris: “What a voice. What expressiveness”

Her duets with both Gregory’s Jekyll and Hyde fizzed with electricity and, in between, her duet with Amy Gregory’s Emma Carew, Dr Jekyll’s trusting, unknowing fiancée, was Amy’s peak moment too.

As befits a romanticist scientist, Gregory’s Dr Jekyll had chemistry with both women, one relationship tender if preoccupied, the other tactile and voracious, as the chemically altered Hyde gradually prevails, both possessed and possessive.

John Lister’s John Utterson, Kristian Gregory’s Simon Stride, Richard Noakes’s Sir Danvers Carew, Barry Whitaker’s Bishop of Basingstoke, Sarah Barker’s brothel madam, Aunt, and Esme Schofield’s Newsgirl all had their moments in a show best known for Dr Jekyll’s belter This Is The Moment.

It was enjoyable too to spot Rowntree Players’ riotous pantomime dame, Graham Smith, in a deliciously wicked cameo as Sir Archibald Proops QC, a law unto himself indeed.

Joe Gregory’s Dr Jekyll finds peace at last in the arms of Amy Gregory’s Emma in the finale to Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

Julie Lomas directs 1812 Theatre Company for first time in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

Julie Lomas directing a rehearsal for 1812 Theatre Company’s production of Jeklly & Hyde The Musical

JULIE Lomas directs Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident troupe, the 1812 Theatre Company, in their first ever musical production, Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s Jekyll & Hyde, from tomorrow.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, a devoted man of science, Dr Henry Jekyll, is driven to find a chemical breakthrough that can solve some of mankind’s most challenging medical dilemmas. Indeed, he is trying to discover cures for what now would be recognised as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Rebuffed by the powers that be, he decides to make himself the subject of his own experimental treatments, accidentally unleashing his inner demons along with the man the world would come to know as Mr Hyde.

1812’s cast features husband and wife Joe and Amy Gregory in the lead roles of Jekyll/Hyde and Emma Carew. John Atkin is the musical director; Michaela Edens, the choreographer.

Here Julie discusses 1812 Theatre Company’s 30th anniversary production with CharlesHutchPress.

How did you land this directing gig? Were you head-hunted or did you pitch for it?

“An 1812 Theatre Company member suggested that the company should do a musical at the annual general meeting. Apparently, others had been talking about wanting to do it for some time.

“The committee discussed this and I said that if they would like to go ahead, I had experience as a director
in musical theatre and would love to do it.”


What attracted you to directing Jekyll & Hyde The Musical?

“I love musicals that dramatic enough to ‘move’ an audience emotionally. There are not many of these that are available for amateurs to perform. I feel that there are several opportunities for this in Jekyll and Hyde.


“With its dramatic strengths and less choreographic content, it is a suitable choice as a
first musical for this company.


“Plus, I’ve directed it before for the Grange Players in Walsall. This actually made me think very carefully as I prefer not to repeat anything, but this was a musical that I was driven to do again. My concept this time is different, a contemporary treatment but still in a Victorian setting.”


What is your directing background?

“Having performed in several plays for The Grange Theatre, Walsall, I was asked if I would like to
direct. My first play was Kindertransport by Diane Samuels, and after that I never looked back.

“I directed several plays there, including Rebecca, Accrington Pals and The End Of The Affair but my favourite by a long way was Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus.

“I think it was being able to bring together my love of music, fabulous period costume, make-up
and wigs plus the wonderful tragic plot line and enigmatic characters. I was fortunate enough to win a regional NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) award for that production, which I treasure.

“I moved into directing a musical there and then directed one professionally for Brownhills Musical Theatre Company, Sweet Charity.”

Do you now specialise in musical theatre?

“I’m keen to embrace many types of theatrical productions. I’ve been a soloist singer since the age of eight and have been lucky enough to have had many fantastic principal roles in musical theatre. My favourites were Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street and Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

“So, although I cannot say that I specialise in musical theatre, there’s absolutely nothing that compares with the feeling of being part of a musical, as a performer, director or crew member.”

What brought you to Helmsley?

“I moved to North Yorkshire to be geographically close to my son and his wife and see more of my grandchildren. My eldest son and his family live in Sheffield, so I can commute there too.


“However, it’s a great place to live in its own right, the peaceful countryside around here is a sheer delight and Helmsley is the prettiest town in which to rehearse and perform! I was looking for a theatre company that would feel like ‘home’ to me and I felt welcomed from the start. The theatre itself is lovely, providing an intimate theatre space, modern studio bar and leafy courtyard.


“I live in Westow, a village just outside the Howardian Hills area. I now consider the Helmsley Arts
Centre to be my base. In a few years, even with the lockdown, I have already performed there, worked backstage for a production and I’m also a member of the management committee.”

Any thoughts on why 1812 Theatre Company has not staged a musical in its 30 years until now?

“I would imagine it’s because when the company was set up, the idea was for members to perform plays. However, it’s so much more diverse now. In the past 12 months alone we’ve performed plays, a rehearsed reading, an indoor/outdoor production in Helmsley Walled Garden, a hugely successful pantomime and now a musical!


“We’re hoping that this variety will both entice new members, who are always welcome,
and encourage retention of existing members.


“The other more sombre answer is that to produce a musical is expensive and we’re hoping to have good audiences, not only to see the amazing performances, but also from a financial

What are the strengths of Bricusse and Wildhorn’s songs?


“As we’re repeatedly told by our musical director, John Atkin, this is not an easy musical score. However, it’s such a beautiful one with melodies that linger long after the show is over.


“It allows performers to do just that: perform the music, rather than just sing it, and we have worked hard to bring that to the stage. It provides a tour de force for the eponymous actor, Jekyll, which climaxes with him singing a duet with himself, as Hyde. Joe [Gregory] has excelled in the role and I’m sure audiences will appreciate his performance.”

Is this the first time you have worked with musical director John Atkin?

“It is, and I’m hoping it will not be the last. As soon as I met him, I knew the production
was in safe hands. He’s an extremely talented musician and wonderful to
work with.”

A husband and wife, Joe and Amy Gregory, will lead your cast as Jekyll/Hyde and Emma Carew. What does their personal relationship bring to their stage partnership?

“It’s rare for there to be such chemistry between the two romantic leads – even if they do happen to be married! Joe and Amy have such a special relationship, and in their case, this comes across immediately.


“They’re also both lovely people and in all my time directing, I have genuinely never met anyone more joyous to work with. They are committed, passionate performers who will work hard to
deliver what you’re aiming for as a director yet also contribute actively to the creative process.”

What is the message of Jekyll & Hyde in our 21st century world, where tampering with science
may well have led to Covid?

“Good question. I suppose the message is that research does not always deliver the desired
results. Sometimes though, even the unexpected results can turn out to be beneficial. There are many drugs that are used for things for which they were not intended in development.

As a hospital pharmacist by profession, I was interested in this angle of drug research in psychiatry with Dr Jekyll. Even today, we still know comparatively little about the causes of
mental illness and effective drug therapy is limited.

“Also, if you consider the possible effects of hallucinogenic drugs, the concept of a ‘Dr Jekyll’ and ‘Mr Hyde’ characterisation after injection is not so far-fetched.”

What will be your next theatrical project?

“My next project for 1812 Theatre Company is to mentor a first-time director, Sarah Barker, as she directs ’The Kitchen Sink [Hull playwright Tom Wells’s tender comedy of big dreams and small changes in a Withernsea, East Yorkshire family].

We like to encourage members to consider directing and have a few people that are interested, but it’s important that they have someone to support them through the process.

“I think the big question is, will I ever direct another musical for 1812. Who knows? This production has consumed every moment of my life for the past six months, and a fair few moments in the months before that.

“I’d like to think so. What I do know, though, is that my passion for musicals will never die, unlike a number of Jekyll’s victims!”

1812 Theatre Company in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, Helmsley Arts Centre, July 5 to 9, 7.30pm. Tickets: £15, under 18s, £7.50, from the arts centre, on 01439 771700 or Age
guidance: Suitable for 13 plus.



1812 Theatre Company to stage Jekyll & Hyde The Musical under Julie Lomas’s direction at Helmsley Arts Centre

Natasha Jones’s Lucy and Joe Gregory’s Jekyll/Hyde in rehearsal for 1812 Theatre Company’s Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

JULIE Lomas makes her directorial debut for the 1812 Theatre Group at the helm of the Helmsley company’s ambitious production of Jekyll & Hyde The Musical.

The resident troupe at Helmsley Arts Centre will be performing Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s thrilling pop score there from July 5 to 9 as part of the Meeting House Court venue’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

Julie, who has a wealth of experience directing at the The Grange Theatre, Walsall, is joined in the creative team by John Atkin, a musical director who needs no introduction to York audiences.

Julie Lomas: Directing 1812 Theatre Company for the first time

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, a devoted man of science, Dr Henry Jekyll, is driven to find a chemical breakthrough that can solve some of mankind’s most challenging medical dilemmas. Indeed, he is trying to discover cures for what now would be recognised as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Rebuffed by the powers that be, he decides to make himself the subject of his own experimental treatments, accidentally unleashing his inner demons along with the man the world would come to know as Mr Hyde.

Wildhorn’s soaring melodies offer wonderful opportunities for the performers to showcase their abilities. The two leading ladies each have their showstopping moments, but for the actor playing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the role is a breath-taking tour de force.

Sarah Barker and Esme Schofield rehearsing a scene from Jekyll And Hyde The Musical

Enter Joe Gregory, a talented musician and experienced actor, who is a stalwart of 1812’s pantomimes and latterly has appeared in Martin Vander Weyer’s Helmsley’s Whole History, Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends and David Tristram’s Going Green.

Joe will be playing opposite his wife, Amy Gregory, here cast as Jekyll’s fiancée, Emma Danvers. Amy is a “graduate” of the 1812 Youth Theatre, run by Natasha Jones, who will play Lucy, the other woman in Jekyll’s life.

Seven cast members are drawn from the youth theatre ranks, bringing their energy and skills to Julie’s production, which is sponsored by the Yorkshire Future Music Fund and Gillham Charitable Fund.

Amy Gregory’s Emma Carew in the rehearsal room

The full cast will be: Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde, Joe Gregory; Emma Carew, Amy Gregory; Lucy, Natasha Jones; Utterson, John Lister; Danvers, Richard Noakes; Simon Stride, Kristian Gregory; Mrs Poole, Joanne Lister; Aunt (Brothel Madam), Sarah Barker; New Girl, Esme Schofield; Nellie (Prostitute), Sara Todd; Winnie (Prostitute) Jeanette Hambidge; Lady Beaconsfield, Sue Smith; Lady Savage, Heather Linley, and Bishop of Basingstoke, Barry Whitaker.

Further roles will be: General Glossop, Stephen Lonsdale; Sir Archibald Proops, Graham Smith; Miss Henrietta Faversham, Rosie Hayman; Jekyll’s Father, Stephen Lonsdale; Miss Louisa Pembroke, Annabelle Bridgman; Ward Orderly/Bouncer, Tom Robson, plus Dancer and Prostitute, Abigail Elliot, Millicent Neighbour, Bella Cornford, Amelia Featherstone and Charlotte Mintoft.

1812 Theatre Company in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, Helmsley Arts Centre, July 5 to 9, 7.30pm.  Tickets: £15, under 18s, £7.50, from the arts centre or at

Taking the chair: Barry Whitaker as the Bishop of Basingstoke