The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Character NameDrood Role NameCast
Alice Nutting Edwin DroodLeslie Sikes
Deirdre PeregrineRosa BudChristine Rios
Clive PagetJohn JasperDoug Erwin
Victor GrinsteadNeville Landless Michael Perkins
Janet ConoverHelena Landless Christine Johnson
Cedric MoncrieffeRev. Septimus Crisparkle Chad Little
Phillip BaxMr. Bazzard / WaiterJohn Foughty
Nick Cricker(Stony) Durdles Wayne Mackenberg
Young Nick / ThrottleDeputy/ Stage Manager / BarkeepAlan Aguilar
Angela PrysockPrincess Puffer Lindsey Jones
Hitchens / CarwrightMayor Sapsea / ChairmanJoshua Cook
Miss Isabel YearsleyWendy / Bordello Girl / Citizen of CloisterhamElise LaBarge
Miss Florence GillBeatrice / Flo / Bordello Girl /Citizen of CloisterhamStacy Snyder
Mr. Christopher LoydHorrace / Puffer Client / Citizen of CloisterhamJohn Wolbers
Mr. Allen EliotJasper's Shade / Puffer Client / Citizen of CloisterhamJim Kimker

Directed by Suki Peters

Musical Direction by Mary Sutherland

Olivette Community Center
9723 Grandview Drive Olivette, MO 63132

 

Production Dates:

April 4, 5, 11, 12 @ 8:00 Pm

and 6 and 13, @ 2:00 pm

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a stylized musical rarely performed. It's a daunting show, requiring a sizable cast of 15 with convincing British accents and singers of the highest caliber. I applaud the Over Due Theatre Company and director Suki Peters for inviting and rising to this challenge.

Community theatre is generally considered a proving ground for aspiring actors, but too often, these companies recycle predictable material, old chestnuts that have grown tiresome to many theatre goers. It's refreshing to find a company willing to introduce community audiences to an out of the ordinary work they're unlikely to encounter elsewhere.

This play pays homage to the boisterous musical halls of Victorian England, where the lower classes caroused to the likes of jugglers, contortionists and bawdy songstresses. Raucous audience participation, fueled by sloshing pints of ale, was mandatory.

Set designer Brian Peters recreates a delightful music hall milieu. The impressive set, slightly tacky by design, is home to our actors who perform a play-within-a-play - The Mystery of Edwin Drood - very freely adapted from Charles Dickens' unfinished novel. Dickens died inconveniently before completing this whodunit.

In 1986, Rupert Holmes, British composer, lyricist and book writer attempted to fill the gap by concocting a musical which simultaneously parodies and celebrates melodrama, whilst resuscitating the Drood characters.

The story concerns the alleged murder of our title character, a promising young chap engaged to a beautiful and presumably virtuous maiden named Rosa Bud. One of her ardent admirers is Drood's Uncle John Jasper (Doug Erwin), whose lascivious designs on Rosa are immediately evident. (Cue: hiss the villain.)

This pompous music instructor abuses his position as her voice teacher. To Rosa's disgust, he coerces her to serenade him with his newest composition, "Moonfall", a haunting melody with highly erotic lyrics. As Rosa, Christina Rios, performs it magnificently.

Jasper suffers from a Jekyll-and-Hyde complex as evidenced in his duet, "Two Sides of the Coin". His lyrics include:

"There's more than room enough for two inside my mind."
"And if I take opposing sides within myself / Then who divides up what is right or wrong?"

Surely, we've all experienced internal conflicts, especially ethical ones. Jasper's are magnified by his opium addiction. Erwin twitches creepily and mugs for the audience just a shade too much when his evil side is threatening to surface. (Yes, I remember this is melodrama.)

Jasper's unholy cravings are satisfied at the opium den of the feisty, buxom, past-her-prime Princess Puffer. Puffer is a juicy role and Lindsey Jones plays it to perfection. Her songs run the gamut from the bawdy "The Wages of Sin" to the poignant "The Garden Path to Hell". Leslie Sikes makes a charming and dapper Edwin Drood. Other exotic characters join the action to provide flimsy subplots and new murder suspects.

The plot is Byzantine. Let's just say we are all in for jolly good time, with glorious ballads, rousing production numbers and comely satin-corsetted wenches. Rowdy audience participation is part of the fun here. Can you say, Droooooooooooood?" The essential feature of theatre is its live interactive relationship with the audience. Holmes carries this to a new level by having the audience for each performance vote on the most likely murderer. After all, Dickens died before revealing the scoundrel. We might as well hazard a guess.

The singing is excellent in Drood , the acting somewhat uneven and the band a little rough at times. The overall effect is genuinely entertaining and Debbie Bixler's costume designs remind us why period dramas are so appealing. The visual pleasure from the appearance of charming costumes can compensate for a multitude of imperfections (not implying there is a "multitude" in this case).

While I have the opportunity, I'd like to expound, i.e., rant and rave, on the use of "Moonfall". Although I am delighted to hear this gorgeous, mesmerizing melody, its placement in the musical seems arbitrary and dramatically counterintuitive to me. Why does Holmes introduce it so early in the play? Although the song, in one form or another, is reprised several times, its initial impact - spectacular, in every sense - renders the following scenes anticlimactic. To my ears, the song's operatic character seems out of place in a musical hall setting and its use in the play, contrived. I always felt it was a wonderful "trunk song" looking for a theatrical home. But if something must stick out like a sore thumb, it might as well be a virtuoso melody beautifully sung with stunning metaphorical lyrics. If that's the worst flaw in the play, we're pretty lucky.

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood runs through April 13th at the the Olivette Community Center, 9723 Grandview Drive. For more information call 636-328-6546 or visit overduetheatrecompany.com

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