The fog rolls in almost as thickly as the imagery in Creep, one of the theater season’s most hotly-anticipated new productions. Written and composed by Dallas playwright Donald Fowler, it’s a unique reverie on the legend of Jack the Ripper, with thoughtful characterizations, several outstanding performances and a score that spans from beer-hall festive (“Old Habits”) to tender ballad (“Sticks and Stones”).
It’s frustrating, then, that with so many strong components, the production does not fully come together. The opening ensemble song is, presumably, chocked with exposition, but some combination of diction, sound and an overly-loud orchestra muffles the lyrics to the point of confusion.
Such an ambitious project is bound to encounter some glitches along the way, of course, and weighed against the pros, most of the cons seem surmountable. Among the pros: Christia Mantze’s performance as Mother, pictured center, a fierce but vulnerable character who has traded one form of enslavement for another; Patty Breckenridge as Polly, a scene-chewing Cockney whore played as if Eliza Doolittle had never met Henry Higgins; and Daniel Rowan as Christian, an uptight piano instructor being manipulated by his patron (Jonathan Bragg), Mother and perhaps even his pupil Mary (Sarah Elizabeth Smith), Mother’s damaged and meek daughter around whom so much of the action occurs. The costumes (by Derek Whitener and Victor Newman Brockwell) are evocative but unique, the lighting (by Jason Foster) moody and Fowler’s score is filled with gems.
The cons, though include the story, which takes too long to get going (you could easily not realize it had anything to do with Jack the Ripper until the start of Act 2). Is this a pacing problem or a flaw in the conception? Either way, it feels like something that could be cleaned up in subsequent productions. And I very much hope there will be subsequent productions. Creep is a promising and often exciting new musical, one that really deserves a chance to stalk theaters with ghoulish abandon.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 9, 2015.