The curtain rises on the East End of London in late August of 1888. Another prostitute has been cut down by a mysterious killer, and the people of the slum district of Whitechapel are both terrified and fascinated by the unknown killer among them. The Gentleman of the Press fuel the fire with their fateful reporting (Story of the Century). The killer wastes no time striking again, as his thirst for blood is unending, and Polly “Mary” Nichols becomes the next victim (Moment #1 / Finger of God). When Polly’s body is discovered, the prostitutes of the district can only wonder who is next. Except for Mary Jane Kelly. She seems to know the killer’s pattern, as it reminds her of someone from her past (At The Brittania). The Press return to report on Polly’s murder (Story of the Century – reprise).
Kelly joins her friends Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, and Catharine Eddowes for drinks, and the four mourn Polly’s murder, despite the insults hurled at them by the tavern’s barman (Poor Polly). The women all agree that in the brutal world of Whitechapel, no one will watch out for them except each other (The Likes of Us). The women separate for the evening, and while Mary perceives further who may be committing these horrendous murders (Better Off Dead), Annie Chapman walks toward home (The Tale of the Merry Maid), only to become the murderer’s next victim.
Her body is discovered, and when a hysterical Kelly stirs up a riot while trying to throw attention to the insolent barman, she gets the attention of Inspector Frederick Abberline (29 Hanbury Street). He has Kelly taken away for questioning and clears the murder site; the day closes in dead ends and self-recrimination as Abberline seeks assistance with Dr. Rees Ralph Llewellyn (Who Would Have Guessed?).
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The Press continue to report on the events (Moment #2), as the scene shifts to the killer, crazed with rage and lust as his latest murder fuels the memories of his past. His anger manifests itself in taunting the police, and “Jack the Ripper” solidifies his moniker in the course of history (Everything Reminds Me). Kelly, while in the police station awaiting questioning, is also feeling the ghosts of the past closing in on her (Walls Closing In). Abberline attempts to question her, albeit gently, as we learn that he is one of her customers, but she remains silent. Frustrated and concerned about her and this case, he sends her home.
September 30, 1888. We’re in the Brittania enjoying a rollicking mockery of the current events, led by the life of the party, Elizabeth Stride (Stride's Song). Kelly knows how dangerous such bravado can be, and though she still cannot bring herself to tell all, she tries to keep Stride and Eddowes close to her - for that, she knows, is their only safety. But they will not listen. There is no room for fears and fancies (Here and Now), as the three women (Kelly, Stride and Eddowes) go their separate ways for the evening.
The Press foreshadow to us that more killing is about to occur (Moment #3), and we see that Jack has picked up Stride. In her own flat, Mary is with her latest customer…Inspector Abberline. She becomes the questioner on the officer, genuinely wondering what swayed this gentleman into a life in Scotland Yard. He tells her of the case that defined his path (Cilla).
We then see a drunk Eddowes getting arrested for excessively loud conduct (Old Albert), as Stride and Jack begin to conduct their “business” (Fantasies), which leads to the brutal murder of Stride. But Jack is unable to complete his fulfillment, as he is seen! He leaves the body quickly to escape.
The police whistle interrupts Abberline and Kelly, as people and the Press flood the streets to catch the ravening monster. Yet he is not so ravenous now. He collapses to the in an alleyway, a pathetic creature that waits, alone, for the mob that will find him and lynch him. He is found - by the desperately unlucky Catharine Eddowes. The demon that drives him comes to life again, and Eddowes is gruesomely murdered.
Even now, he is still not alone. His hands are glistening with blood as Kelly steps out of the shadows (Finale Act 1). She reaches to him... her flesh and blood, and Mary Jane Kelly and Jack the Ripper flee into the night as the Press have the last word, taunting the desperate Abberline.
Four women are now dead, and the name of “Jack the Ripper” is on everyone's lips. Emotions are at a fever pitch as the Gentlemen of the Press joust with Abberline. With the world's attention focused on them, Abberline's pleas for calm and sanity are swamped by screaming headlines blazing every lurid detail of the murder spree (Weekly London Murder).
Safely in her flat, Kelly has brought her brother. Still fearful for her life, he tries to assure that he would never harm her, even though she left him after the initial murder he committed (Finally). But she knows what he has done to her friends, and cannot be comforted, even when he reminds her of the incestuous trysts between them and their mother.
Meanwhile, the Press storm Scotland Yard with half a dozen different theories and suggestions for Abberline; he and his men agree that it's always those with no responsibility for failure who seem to know best (Smarter Than You). Abberline has never lost his suspicion of Kelly; now, with her closest friends murdered, he is certain that she holds the key to the Ripper's identity (Four Women). He decides to confront her, but is ordered to rest by the police doctor, which he ignores.
Mary cannot help but express the fear of her life at the hands of her brother, Jack. Then Jack tells her his plan: to find a double with whom they can use to throw off the pursuit of Scotland Yard, and book passage to America.
Jack and Mary return late at night. With them is a young girl whom the Ripper plans to kill and disfigure, so the world will think that Kelly herself fell victim to the knife. Haunted by the ghosts of her friends, Kelly does not - cannot - stop him (Mary’s Reminder). The deed is done. As the Ripper leads Kelly away, she pulls from his grasp, pleading for death to atone for all she has done. Abberline, who has arrived too late to stop the carnage in Kelly's room, tries to arrest the Ripper. They fight, but when the Ripper overpowers Abberline, Kelly summons up her courage and kills her brother.
What will happen to her now (Story of the Century – The Final Moment)? Abberline knows his duty, but he recognizes the torment in Kelly's soul. Jack the Ripper is dead - that's what the world will want. Who needs to know that the butchered body back in Kelly's room is not Mary Jane Kelly? Abberline lets her go; perhaps there will be a second chance for both of them, after all.