Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"The Mystery of Edwin Drood"

by Rupert Holmes
Directed by Lisa Rafferty
Choreographed by Holly Garman, Lisa Rafferty
Musical Direction by Peter Bufano

Set Design by David Miller
Lighting Design by Heidi Hinkel
Costume Design by Tom Soderberg Stage Manager Lynne Coxall

Chairman............................Jim Fitzpatrick
Edwin Drood.............................Dianne Ford
John Jasper..............................Seth Teter
Rosa Bud.............................Kristen Palson
Helena Landless........................Holly Garman
Neville Landless........................Buddy Souza
The Princess Puffer.....................Gail DeBiak
Rev. Mr. Crisparkle....................David Herder
Buzzard..................................Reese Snow
Durdles.................................Brian Woods
Deputy.................................Clay Robeson
Miss Jane Throttle......................Jane Grogan
Miss Florence Gill................Jennifer Bubriski
Miss Sarah Cook.....................Jennifer Carson
Mr. Alan Eliot..........................Nate Croner
Miss Isobel Yearsley.....................Julie Ganz
Miss Violet Balfour................Laura Kandziolka
Mr. Medford Moss.......................Seth Maislin
Mr. Montague Pruitt...................Chris O'Brien


I promised three people I'd review this show --- one of them being myself. But I didn't expect the review to appear just when it was closing. So this will be a less formal "past-tense" recognition of a fun night of deliberately presentational acting --- one I will admit started out looking disastrous.

One should never send community theater actors into the house in full makeup and period costumes to chat informally with the audience while trying to stay in character as bad ham actors. Once relieved of the strain of spontaneous improvising and back on the Footlight Club stage performing "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" however, they were fine.

Then the cast became an 1890's Royale Music Hall troup in the old "mellerdraymer" style hamming their way through the plot, and breaking character whenever possible to take bows or wave to friends or to sing songs that furthered the plot and others that just seemed like fun. The game of actors playing actors playing parts allowed everyone to admire themselves while taking their turns.

This was a really big show, with a cast of 20 often spilling right off the stage. However Director Lisa Rafferty easily managed quick shifts of focus from crowds to solo turns --- as easily as Stage Manager Lynne Coxall and the running crew managed David Miller's superb folding flats and set-wagons. (I hope the beautiful drop-curtain painted for the show stays in the Footlight Club prop room for their next hundred and twenty years of performances.)

The cast obviously enjoyed themselves, and the audience (me included) did too. There was one odd wrinkle in the fabric of self-spoof in the show. Early in act two, Gail DeBiak took the plot-heavy song "The Garden Path to Hell" --- all about how an innocent nanny ended up pushing drugs in a Soho opium den --- and did it straight. There was more drama than melodrama for those few moments, and only a broad bit of buffoonery immediately after brought back the whimsical flavor.

That flavor was typified by Dianne Ford as a tempermental actress stomping out of the theatre upon learning the character she played in act one (Edwin Drood) was dead in act two; by Jim Fitzpatrick as the narrator/emcee stepping into a role because an actor was too drunk to play it; by Seth Teter taking boos and hisses as compliments to his villain's role; and everyone took in stride the quite unbelievable "solution" to Charles Dickens' unfinished mystery dictated by audience input.

Finally I must praise Music Director Peter Bufano's control of chorus and soloists doing a score that went from knockabout to opera, and a respectful orchestra accompanying every step of the way.

Community theater actors have been working in the Footlight Club's Eliot Hall now for 120 years now, and they've scheduled shows till next June at 7A Eliot Street in Jamaica Plain. I've seen a lot of good theater there, and I'll keep coming back for more.

Love,
===Anon.

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (till 9 June)
THE FOOTLIGHT CLUB
Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN
1(617)524-6506

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide
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