Oscar E Moore

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THE MYSTERY of EDWIN DROOD – Exceptionally entertaining revival

December 7th, 2012 by Oscar E Moore

Whodunit?  Rupert Holmes, that’s who!  Responsible for Book, Music and Lyrics for this festive and frolicking, stylish and impeccably cast Roundabout revival of his award winning THE MYSTERY of EDWIN DROOD that is delighting audiences at Studio 54.

In this play within a play, superbly directed by Scott Ellis, set in a Victorian Music Hall, the troupe of actors attempts to perform a tuneful and witty musical version of an unfinished novel by Charles Dickens with all the trimmings.

It is ingenious, funny and handsome done with just the right amount of melodramatic acting from the ensemble cast to please just about everyone.  And with a twist that would please even Agatha, the audience gets to select “whodunit” – as cast members tally votes from the audience members who get to choose from the final five possible suspects of who murdered Edwin Drood.  It’s like an auction gone wild.  Resulting in a different ending each performance.

From the stunning and enchanting multiple sets by Anna Louizos that include an opium den, a cemetery and a railroad station that resemble the best of Hallmark Victorian Christmas cards to the beautiful period costumes of William Ivey Long and the incredible lighting design by Brian Nason you will be enthralled by the look as much as the sound of this period piece with music direction by Paul Gemignani with its orchestra housed in the upper boxes on either side of the proscenium.

This really is the highlight of the theatrical season thus far.  And should not be missed.  Especially for its cast – which includes the spry Jim Norton as the Chairman – with his perfect comic delivery holding the proceedings together and toying with the audience with his asides.

A solid Stephanie J. Block as Mr. Drood portrayed by the infamous male impersonator actress – Miss Alice Nutting who is given a supremely grand exit.

A somewhat mad and evil (check the mustache) Will Chase as Drood’s Uncle John Jasper, in love with his beautiful music student Rosa Bud (with a gifted voice and equally gifted bosomed Betsy Wolfe) who is engaged to Edwin Drood.

The plot thickens to pea soup fog thickness with the indomitable living legend Chita Rivera as The Princess Puffer – who runs the opium den and stops the show repeatedly with an entrance, a song or an exit.

A flummoxed Reverend Crisparkle (Gregg Edelman whose eyes sparkle sharp-like in the presence of Rosa Bud).  And the supporting players all – especially the incredible Andy Karl (Neville Landless) and Jessie Mueller (Helena Landless) who both always amaze in their transformations as actors along with a standout performance by Peter Benson as buzzard with his “Never The Luck” number that is outstanding.

There are clues and red herrings and Gilbert and Sullivan tongue twisting songs and lovely ballads to put a huge smile on everyone’s face and a finale that tops it all!

Warren Carlyle has provided some fine Music Hall dances and a very interesting fantasy sequence in the opium den.  All in all THE MYSTERY of EDWIN DROOD is the very model of a modern major musical.  See it!  Joyfully extended through March 10th, 2013

www.RoundaboutTheatre.org Photos:  Joan Marcus

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