Dickens' Whodunnit Lets Audience Help PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 July 2017 17:08

Solving “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is the primary objective of the multiple Tony Award-winning musical which opened Wednesday evening in Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre.

Based on an unfinished novel by the Victorian era’s best known and most prolific writer, Charles Dickens, it offers audiences the opportunity to participate in the final outcome of the mystery: Is Edwin Drood dead or is he not? Is it a murder or is it not? And if it is, who is the murderer?

The Mystery of Edwin Drood Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INUnder the aegis of guest director Tony Humrichouser, the arena stage is the Music Hall Royale, complete with gaslit playing areas and a willing company of talented performers who venture into the audience before the show begins to recreate the comraderie of a 19th century playhouse, complete with instructions on how to react whenever the title is pronounced.

The biggest “gimmick” of this mystery is its dangling denoument.

Dickens, who died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 58, left no instructions as to which of his colorful characters would be named the killer so, about halfway through the second act, The Chairman (Mike Yocum) stops the action and asks the audience to vote for its preferred villain.

As you might suspect, this can be different with each performance and puts the pressure on the primary characters as to what is to follow when he or she is named, specifically performing an individual ”Murderer’s Confession.”

Not that being named by the crowd means any special perks, but each of the characters obviously has a great deal of fun recruiting his/her fans.

The character of The Chairman is not strictly Dickens but was created by author/composer/lyricist Rupert Holmes as a player and narrator of the frequently convoluted plotline. He also introduces each of the actors to the audience by their real/professional names as well as the names of their characters. It is a daunting assignment which Yocum carries off with appropriate panache.

The Myster of Edwin Drood Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INFirst up is John Jasper (Riley McFarland), the local choirmaster and Edwin’s uncle who also lusts after Miss Rosa Bud (Kelly Britt), his music pupil and Edwin’s fiancé. There is no doubt that Jasper is a most wonderfully hissable villain (McFarland obviously loves it and I kept waiting for the twirling mustache). His problem is described hilariously in his solo “A Man Could Go Quite Mad.”.

Edwin, as was the custom in that era, is played by a “Lead Boy,” always a female, here in the person of the very excellent Elaine Cotter. Britt, as the much sought-after Rosa Bud, is beautifully fluttery and delivers a soaring soprano (“Moonfall”). She is the obvious heroine while Princess Puffer (Leanne Antonio) represents the dark side (“The Wages of Sin”) as mistress of the local opium den. Like the others, she is not quite what she seems.

The Mystery of  Edwin Drood  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INFilling the suspect list are The Rev. Crisparkle (Andy Robinson), his frustrated assistant Bazzard (Evan Kinnane), the Landless twins Helena (Sarah Ariel Brown) and Neville (Britton Hollingsworth) recently immigrated from “Ceylon,” Durdles the gravedigger (Michael Bradley) and his son Durdles the Second (Blake R. Bojewski).

All have secrets and motives (some stronger than others) for doing the dirty deed but which one is the real killer? It totally depends on what the audience wants, which is half the fun of “Edwin Drood.”

The other half is watching the company unravel the serpentine thread of Dickens-via-Holmes. It is no easy task which may be one of the reasons this show is only infrequently produced.

They meet the challenge well, although frequently understanding the lyrics is a problem

In addition to the period set by designer David Lepor, the richly colorful costumes by Stephen R. Hollenbeck and the corkscrew curls of the wigs by Jennifer Dow — all of which are major assets in visually turning back the clock — the award-winning score is solidly interpreted by guest musical conductor Alyssa Kay Thompson and her nine-member orchestra.

On opening night a misfire from the fog machine enveloped the entire stage in a too-realistic London brown-out during which Princess Puffer continued her solo — completely fogged in (or out) — without missing a beat.

The dark side of “Edwin Drood” was, however, quite literally too dark. The atmospheric lighting design, aimed at recreating London’s murky nighttime, unfortunately left soloists faceless. Undoubtedly, more light has been shed on that problem.

“THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD” plays through July 8 in the theater at 2517 E. Center St. in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations call (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagonwheelcenter.org

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 July 2017 17:19
 

Read Reviews and Articles From Our Theatre Archives

Archives

Register or Login
Register by clicking
Create an Account below.



In order to Ask Marcia yourself you will need to register.
I only takes a moment.