THE MAN INSIDE at the Everyman Studio, Cheltenham


I’ve only just got my breath back after seeing The Man Inside last night in the Studio at the Everyman, Cheltenham. While a big, important and established musical was taking place in the main house a big, important and new musical was taking place next door in the Studio.

I will absolutely guarantee that you have never before seen a show like this in the Everyman Studio and that you are unlikely to in the future. The Man Inside is a proper musical; I mean a proper West End type musical, only smaller – but not very much smaller. It’s rather like the miniature village at Bourton-on-the-Water, perfect in every detail except scale. Or, to be more accurate, it’s like a mini Phantom of the Opera.

The show with its impressive, large set, lavish costumes, brilliantly complex lighting and London musical star in the form of Dave Willetts, was almost incongruous in the tiny Studio space. It was as though it had set up in the wrong theatre.

Jekyll & Hyde are a bit like Sherlock Holmes in that they are always popping up in some guise, somewhere or other, their popularity depending on who’s playing who at the time. In fact several previous attempts have been made to launch a musical of the story. Sherlock is currently on a high with Benedict Cumberbatch and Messrs Jekyll & Hyde have been rather out of the limelight for a while. Well, they are back and this time with a twist in the tail.

The comparisons with Phantom are unavoidable. The stories of the Phantom and Jekyll & Hyde are not a million miles apart. Both involve a lot of cloaks, swirling mists and maidens in peril from men who are a bit loony. And, of course, Mr. Willetts starred in the West End show, having taken over from Michael Crawford.

The Man Inside, this new version of the J & H tale, is by Tony Rees and Gary Young with music by Tony Rees and is beautifully compact and effective. So good in fact that one wonders why they made it so small. Perhaps there are plans to expand it later.

The charismatic Dave Willetts was superb as the dual-faceted Dr. Jekyll and was very skilfully supported by Jessie Lilley playing Lizzie and Alexandra Fisher as Katherine. All three sang beautifully and the production numbers, if that’s what they could be called on such a scale, worked brilliantly, especially Jessie Lilley as the music-hall performer. Ms Lilley was outstanding as the fallen woman, although to be fair, she did have the meatier part. The musicians numbered two but at times managed to make their piano and double-bass sound like a full pit orchestra.

All aspects of The Man Inside were excellent and it would be difficult to find fault with any of it. It is just a pity it had been squeezed into such a small space.

Describing it as ambitious hardly does it justice. I urge you to see The Man Inside – you ain’t never going to see its like again the Everyman Studio. ★★★★★   Michael Hasted

Click here to read our exclusive interview with Dave Willetts

Presented by The Landor Theatre in association with the Everyman Theatre