are not booing, they are chanting “Drood.”
Spectators are immediately asked to join in and hold that “o” whenever
the title character is mentioned on-stage.
Incorporating audience participation in the tradition of Rand’s Night of January 16th,
patrons will decide who the issue of guilt, but nobody is really innocent in
the Roundabout Theater Company’s randy revival of Rupert Holmes’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood, now running
on Broadway (promo
as the latest production of a Victorian theater company, the first act more or
less follows Dickens’ unfinished novel and previous Masterpiece and Universal adaptations. Dro-oo-od is the entitled orphan nephew of his
guardian, John Jasper, a secretly drug-addicted provincial choirmaster. Jasper is not so furtively obsessed with Rosa
Bud, who was betrothed to Dro-oo-od in their childhoods. To deal with his ghosts, Jasper frequents the
London opium den operated by the Princess Puffer, a mere old crone in most
renditions, elevated in stature on-stage to accommodate a Broadway diva like
Chita Rivera, or in the case of the Roundabout’s revival, exactly like Rivera.
long, Dro-oo-od will disappear and suspicion will fall on his newly arrived
rival, Neville Landless. However,
theater company chairman William Cartwright, serving as master of ceremonies
and reluctantly stepping into the role of Mayor Sapsea, will give the audience
a chance to “elect” the murderer for the evening, whether their choice makes
sense or not.
its meta-play-within-a-play concept, Drood
the musical is not unlike the recently hyped Anna Karenina. Yet, the
device works better here, probably because nobody takes it very seriously. Arguably, Holmes’ gimmick was also more original
when it debuted on Broadway in 1985, the same year Oliveira’s Satin Slipper was released.
truth, Drood the musical can never harbor many pretensions, aside
from expressing a bit of Dickens love, which is jolly fair enough. It is simply a chance for the cast to unleash
their inner mustache-twisting villains and vamps. Jim Norton, the distinguished co-star of many
Conor McPherson Broadway productions and his exceptional film The Eclipse, combines ham with dry wit
to excellent effect as the Chairman. The
Princess Puffer is not a natural fit for Rivera, but at least it is a chance to
see the Broadway superstar in her element.
Nor can the pleasure of the unapologetically colorful turns from Will
Chase as the dastardly Jasper and Jessie Mueller as Landless’s femme fatale
twin be denied.
the weak link of the musical Drood are
Holmes not particularly memorable tunes.
Still, “Perfect Strangers” is an appealing enough love song. However, the second act reprise became truly
high farce last Saturday, due to eccentric choices made by the audience that
would take too long to explain. (Evidently,
the Devil really gets into New Yorkers during the holidays.)
returning to Broadway during the Dickens bicentennial, the hard-working, highly
likable Drood represents a fresh
holiday alternative to yet another Christmas
Carol. The audience outreach is
clever without becoming intrusive (unless you’re asking for it in the front
row) and the performances are uniformly energetic. Recommended for those who enjoy broad musical
comedy with a literary veneer, The
Mystery of Edwin Drood runs on Broadway until March 10th at the
Labels: Broadway, Charles Dickens, Chita Rivera, Jim Norton