Saturday, November 13, 2010

Theatre review: "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" from Stage 62. Sunday 14th November 2010

Stage 62 has crowded the stage, the house and the halls with a massive, lively and capable cast in a jolly production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Rupert Holmes. Everybody sings superbly. Plus director Carl Hunt has done quite a good job in the logistics of moving those more than 40 people in the available spaces including amid Keith Osborne’s clever sets. The performers don't do enough with the comic possibilities but, when I was present Friday, everyone had fun, people on stage and in the audience, an audience called upon to have a major role of its own.

I haven’t seen the show for many years and did not remember that it contains as much dialogue as it does songs. The talk of the play within a play consists of simple plot dialogue and attempts at equally simple humor which call for creative interpretation and style. This cast and director Hunt don’t come up with enough to get across the comic possibilities. But vocally everyone does a lot to make delightful the musical element, several attractive and charming songs.

Rupert Holmes’ book, lyrics and music attempt to re-create the essential elements of Charles Dickens' final, multi-installment, unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and blend it with a send-up of 19th Century British music hall shows, shows which became especially popular in the years following Dickens's death. Consequently each character has two names, one as a person in Dickens’ story and another as the performer in the role. This means lots of breaking any suggestion of a fourth wall, at first mingling with the audience and then regularly talking directly to it. Moreover, there’s an element which has become quite famous: the audience is asked to vote on a solution to the mystery and the cast then performs whatever ending fits that vote. The overall result inevitably has original and light-hearted charm, a charm clearly evident in this production.

FYI: This 1985 multi-Tony Award winner ran on Broadway for 17 months and was the first Broadway musical with multiple endings. It also made a name for Holmes. Alas, people who might want to know about him, his background and credits will find not one word of biographical information in the program book, a characteristic oversight of many local smaller theatre companies. Someone needs to remind their artistic directors, who invariably publish extensive credits about the performers, the staff and themselves, four pages in this case, that some print space should be devoted to the originators of their productions, even if only fractions of the audiences would be interested. You can learn about him at his website:

The Mystery of Edwin Drood continues through Saturday November 20th at Andrew Carnegie Free Library Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Avenue, Carnegie, PA. Info and tickets at 412-429-6262 or

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