It was a fun, fun, fun Christmas Eve Eve seeing the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of the Rupert Holmes musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The show, which is based on a novel Charles Dickens never completed because of his death, won five 1986 Tony Awards including Best Musical as well as Best Book and Best Score for Holmes.
The setup here is that the actors of London’s Music Hall Royale are about to stage the world premiere of the musicalization of Dickens’ novel. Set in a musical hall in 1895 means, of course, that all of the performances are way over the top and that adds to the hilarity of the proceedings. One of the hooks to this show is that the audience gets to determine the ending. Since Dickens left the story unfinished, the audience selects who the detective-in-disguise is (through an applause vote), who the murderer is (hands are counted in the audience for this one) and who the lovers are (again, applause vote).
The cast does a fabulous job with this while at the same time singing Holmes’ great songs to perfection. Will Chase, last seen in NBC’s train wreck of a show Smash, chews of the scenery here in the role of drug addict/possibly bi-polar John Jasper. He was incredible, especially with his intro number “A Man Could Go Quite Mad.” Chita Rivera can never do wrong and her opium purveyor Princess Puffer was sassy and saucy. Andy Karl was fun as the exotic Neville Landless. The expressions Karl pulls off with his eyebrows were crazy fun. Unfortunately, Stephanie J. Block was out sick this afternoon, but her understudy did a good job in the title role.
The music is the centerpiece of this show for me. The has the beautiful ballad “Moonfall” as its signature song. There are some wonderful fast paced numbers too such as “Both Sides of the Coin,” “No Good Can Come from Bad,” “Off to the Races,” “Don’t Quite While You’re Ahead.” Another favorite is the wrap up song “The Writing on the Wall.” I’ve enjoyed the score for years and I’m looking forward to getting the new recording when it’s available.
Here’s a sample of the show. In this clip you’ll see and hear “There You Are” (the opening number), “Two Kinsmen,” “Moonfall,” “The Wages of Sin” and “The Writing on the Wall.”
Seeing the show reminded of the fun it was to work on a production of Drood at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre (I think it was late ’95 or early ’96). I was the production stage manager and also played James Throttle, the stage manager of the show on stage. It was great to get a part in a musical that didn’t require any singing (since I have no talent in that area at all). It was fun working with that cast and crew to mount the show. Dealing with the different potential outcomes every night was a delightful challenge. It was a blast to do the show and it was a blast today to see it from the audience too!