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

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