At The Mystery of Edwin Drood, melodrama meets shtick meets interaction, as Charles Dickens’ unfinished last novel gets completed by audience members picking the killer of orphan Drood.
It’s basically Victorian literature meets American Idol–quite an appealing mix, as it turns out.
And last Saturday, I was one of the audience members handpicked to hold up seven characters’ identifying numbers so the other customers could vote on which one had done the deed.
Normally, I detest audience participation, but this was fine because by this point I was swept up in the spirit of the production, a revival of the Tony winning 1986 musical with book and score by Rupert Holmes.
(And I’m expecting a Tony nomination, by the way.)
It’s a show within a show, as the narrator (an impishly funny Jim Norton) guides us through the plot of Drood’s loves and losses, also urging us to applaud for the various actors as they make their entrances.
(Or actually the actors that the real-life actors are playing; it’s complicated.)
There’s a British music hall likeableness to the whole thing, as Drood’s musical drama is continually interrupted by theatrical hijinks and gag tossing.
The original Drood was flawless, but this one–directed by Scott Ellis–does quite nicely, with splendid sets, good casting, and solid attention to the score, which is sophisticated and fun, only a couple of the songs making things temporarily turgid.
In the cast, Gregg Edelman, Andy Karl, Jessie Mueller, Robert Creighton, and the gang are comically deft in their suspicous roles.
Stephanie J. Block as Drood and Betsy Wolfe as his fiance Rosa Bud, handle the high-power singing.
And as opium-wielding Princess Puffer, Chita Rivera lends her legendary presence and wit, making for a surprising Cockney matron and pulling it off with sass and class.
In Act Two, the audience chose Mueller’s Helena Landless character as the killer, affording Mueller one more excellent musical interlude, singing about why she done it, with eyeballs flaring.
And then we were asked to pair up Princess Puffer with a guy–well, this is set in the old days, before homosexuality was all that public, and besides, a woman was playing Edwin Drood, remember? What more do you want?
Anyway, the crowd mischievously paired Chita with the young boy played by Nicholas Barasch.
“Oh my God” mouthed Chita as they romantically waltzed and then the kid dipped her till her head practically reached the stage.
It was magical.
I vote yes.