Buies Creek, N.C.- The curtain goes up on London’s East End. Two Scotland Yard inspectors walk the foggy streets of Whitechapel. A bloodcurdling scream rises from the wings as they flash back to a time a decade before when a prostitute was murdered in the same district. Tonight, they are following up on another murder, that of a woman hideously killed by a man known only as Jack the Ripper. Campbell University sophomore Jonathan Fitts’ original play, “Whitechapel,” is the story of the Jack the Ripper murder case ironically staged as a musical.
“The last thing I wanted the show to be is a murder mystery,” said Fitts. “I didn’t want it to be a blood bath, I wanted it to be classier than that. The show is about passion and musicals are passion.”
Fitts shifts the focus of the play, from the Ripper himself to the characters surrounding the case. Especially Inspector George Lusk, a once lowly beat cop who commits a heinous crime but is eventually redeemed by the love of a good woman.
“It’s a story about the good and bad in all of us and the idea that for as much evil that man is capable of doing, he is also capable of that much good and worthy of forgiveness,” Fitts explained.
The character of Jack the Ripper is only seen twice and all of the murders take place off-stage, but there are 28 major and minor musical numbers in the show. In one scene, the cops dress up like women in order to snare the Ripper, which actually happened in the real murder case and makes for a hilarious musical sequence in the play.
“All the characters are historically accurate except for one,” Fitts said. “The history of the piece lends itself to so much theatricality, the action is never stagnant.”
Early buzz is that there are several theatrical publishers interested in licensing the script. “It’s going to be very interesting, but fun to see how people perceive the show,” said Fitts, “because it is a new show and there are a lot of misconceptions about Jack the Ripper.”
A native of Raleigh, Jonathan Fitts has been performing in community and repertory theatre and as a musician for many years. He is self-trained on the piano and guitar and frequently performs in coffee houses as a cover for other bands. A theatre major, Fitts has also performed in numerous Campbell University productions, including “Little Women,” “The Glass Menagerie (A Harnett Regional Theatre production directed by Campbell’s Keith Hight),” “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” “Pippin,” “Betrayal” and “Voice of the Prairie.” He also wrote the musical score for the Campbell production of “Quem Queritas.” In addition, Fitts is the author of the play “Falling,” which was nominated for the John Cauble Playwrighting Award given by the Kennedy Center. He has a major role in the upcoming production of “Dead Man Walking.”
Fitts co-wrote the music and lyrics for “Whitechapel” with his friend Joshua Carswell, a sophomore at Elon College. “Whitechapel” opens on March 27 at 8 p.m. in Ellis Theatre of the Taylor Bott Rogers Fine Arts Center.
Performances for “Whitechapel” are set for Friday and Saturday, March 27-28 and Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 2-4 at 8 p.m. in the Ellis Theatre of the Taylor Bott Rogers Fine Arts Center. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Campbell University Box Office at 910.893.1509 or online at https://www.campbell.edu. Tickets are $7 general admission and $3 for students, faculty and staff.
Photo Copy: Campbell University sophomore Jonathan Fitts on stage at Ellis Theatre, where his original musical about the murder case of Jack the Ripper will debut.