TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”
Rupert Holmes’s tongue-in-cheek, tongue-twisting, Tony-winning musical with an audience-voted ending (based on Charles Dicken’s unfinished novel of vengeful passions) gets a Broadway revival starring Chita Rivera, Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase.
“The machinations of the mystery plot dance in dizzying rhythmic counterpoint to the story framing the musical…even as [the cast of characters] bicker and mug and tell hoary jokes to cajole the audience into a state of happy delirium.” New York Times
“…for a show doing triple duty as musical, choose-your-own-ending mystery and time-travel device, Drood is jolly good fun.” New York Post
“…all the affectionately antiquated whimsy never quite adds up to robust entertainment.” The Hollywood Reporter
“Drood, ultimately, is not a complete show so much as an expandable playspace, and with performers of this caliber, an evening of yeasty, nudge-nudge-wink-wink British good humor is more or less guaranteed.” New York Magazine
Mizer’s Two Cents: Drood has always been a challenge, but a challenge that many music theater fans relish. Rupert Holmes’s script and score are a giddily dense world of hyper-packed rhymes, very-very Britishness, low comedy antics and dizzying layers (the actors play performers in an 1895 London Music Hall putting on a musical adaptation of Edwin Drood) — that for all its complexity must float in the air like a soap bubble. That this production gets so much right is an often very entertaining miracle. In particular, the cast switching from actors to characters in the play within the play and back again is almost uniformly crystal clear and wonderfully funny. Witty/silly performances abound from big-voiced musical comedy pros like Jim Norton, Robert Creighton, Will Chase, Betsy Wolfe and an indispensable, show-stealing Jessie Mueller. And the entire ensemble fills the stage with an enjoyment of performing that builds to the much publicized “choose your own” endings. The audience WANTS to join in the fun.
Sure, there are some lulls in the action, sections of lyric that fly over the head of even the most attentive listener and, playing both a crowd pleasing grand dame of the music hall and the haunted opium den owner Princess Puffer, the legendary but very American Chita Rivera is not cast to her formidable strengths. But see it if you want to revel in Holmes’s very clever yet slapstick world and watch highly accomplished performers bring a glittering musical theater curio to life.