Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


"THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD"

a musical by Rupert Holmes,
suggested by Charles Dickens’ uncompleted novel
directed by Amanda Dehnert
choreographed by Sharon Jenkins
musical direction by Tim Robertson

Miss Deirdre Peregrine, as Rosa Bud … Jessie Austrian
Mr. Philip Bax, as the Waiter and Bazzard … Stephen Berenson
Mr. Nick Cricker, as Durdles … Timothy Crowe
Mr. Cedric Moncrieffe, as The Reverend Mr. Crisparkle … William Damkoehler
Miss Jane Throttle, Stage Manager (and others) … Beth Hallaren
Mr. Victor Grinstead, as Neville Landless … Mauro Hantman
Miss Janet Conover, as Helena Landless … Phyllis Kay
Mr. William Cartwright, Your Chairman … Brian McEleney
Miss Florence Gill, as Horace (and others) … Meagan Prahl
Miss Angela Prysock, as The Princess Puffer … Anne Scurria
Master Nick Cricker, as Deputy … Stephen Thorne
Miss Alice Nutting, as Edwin Drood … Rachael Warren
Mr. Clive Paget, as John Jasper … Michael Hance
James Hitchens, as Mayor Thomas Sapsea … George Spelvin

Orchestra:
Mr. Thomas Purcell; Musical Director … Tim Robertson
Percussion and Violin … Kevin Fallon
Viola and Bassoon … Steve Jobe
French Horn and Trumpet … Gerard Heroux

Rupert Holmes’ musical THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, based on Charles Dickens’ uncompleted novel, is a lot of fun --- at times, too much fun. Mr. Dickens’ plot, detailed in the Dickens manner, is set in a sleepy English village where young Edwin Drood is betrothed to the fair Rosa Bud despite their both feeling affection rather than love for one another; Edwin’s sudden disappearance on a dark and stormy night leads to accusations of murder, the prime suspects being Edwin’s moody uncle John Jasper, addicted to opium, and Neville Landless, new in town and hot-tempered; both men regard Rosa with more than affection. Just as things start to quicken and dovetail, Mr. Dickens up and died and THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD has tantalized armchair detectives ever since. Instead of creating a macabre entertainment, Mr. Holmes, best known for his Top 40 hit “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”, opts for a camp penny-dreadful, instead, with a Crumles-like troupe acting out the tale in music-hall style. Apart from blending the character of the Reverend Mr. Crisparkle with the characteristics of Rosa’s legal guardian Mr. Grewgious and transforming Neville’s smoldering sister Helena into something out of a sultan’s dream, Mr. Holmes faithfully skims through and sums up the novel’s complexities; his score, serviceable and agreeable, includes Rosa’s “Moonfall”, sung in terrified rapture at Jasper’s insistence, the Princess Puffer’s sing-along “The Wages of Sin”, Edwin and Rosa’s touching “Perfect Strangers” and the rousing “Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead”. Where Mr. Dickens stops, Mr. Holmes continues and lets the audience vote on which characters are (1) the mysterious Dick Datchery, a supposed sleuth, and (2) Edwin’s murderer (with Rosa herself as a fellow suspect!) --- I won’t mention the choices made on the night I attended for fear of swaying your own judgment; suffice it to say that they made perfect sense and I’ll assume that Mr. Holmes has six alternate endings up his sleeve with similar satisfactions. Still, the show is overly long and turns wearisome after the first ninety minutes or so; to quote Times critic Frank Rich when reviewing the original New York production, “Too bad the audience can’t vote along the way to decide which extraneous songs, scenes, and gags might be weeded out.”

Where DROOD is overly long the Trinity Rep production, though excellent, is overly familiar. “Ensemble Uber Alles!” might well be the company’s slogan and there is a recurring fondness for commedia dell’arte with its DROOD cut from the same cloth as the recent MOLIÈRE IMPROMPTU (what will the upcoming CYRANO DE BERGERAC be like?); even the HENRY IV portion of THE HENRIAD was equal parts Goldoni and Shakespeare. These productions brim with clever bits and turns but when everyone is repeatedly jumping through his or her own hoop with studied aplomb it makes for a busy, saturated evening, indeed; those who aren’t partaking in a scene cling to the stage perimeters lest they be forgotten (why doesn’t Trinity mount the two-part NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and have done with it?). The resident ensemble is, on the whole, a talented, multi-faceted one and EDWIN DROOD showcases some impressive singing and dancing skills; among the DROOD surprises are Timothy Crowe, whose gaunt iconography defines Woebegone, kicking up his heels with the best of them and Stephen Thorne hiding his boyish good looks behind the rattiest, tattiest exterior possible (the Messrs. Crowe and Thorne are slated for Claudius and Hamlet, come spring). Anne Scurria, the closest thing to a playful wolverine in human form, is delightfully sinister as the Princess Puffer and sincerely poignant where required; the evening’s triumph, however, is Rachel Warren’s Edwin Drood, convincingly played i transvesti. Ms. Warren tends to overheat and shriek through her performances but in donning a tweed suit and slicking back her hair with two locks for sideburns, Ms. Warren now channels her energy into an ideal vessel, becoming the epitome of dashing, fiery youth. Ms. Warren’s transformation is so complete that when she reveals a bared torso strapped down and flattened, one blinks in near-disbelief --- now, can she be softened up for Ophelia?

EDWIN DROOD’s loveliest moment occurs during “Perfect Strangers”: while Edwin and Rosa embrace and sing among the crypts, Beth Hallaren’s Stage Manager, dressed as an angel, stands on a tomb and subtly poses as Victorian funeral statuary --- these tableaus smack of someone having done their homework for they are enchanting and touch the heart in the midst of the non-stop scampering.

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (9 September - 9 October)
TRINITY REPERTORY COMPANY
201 Washington Street, PROVIDENCE, RI
1 (401) 351-4242

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