Guest Post: A Review of The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Here's a guest review by one of my students, the author of The Chronicles of Katie. She writes about a Broadway revival that I'm curious to see. Enjoy!

Finishing the Story at The Mystery of Edwin Drood

by Katie Levy

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is back on Broadway for the first time since the original 1985 production, and on Wednesday, I got the chance to see it at the legendary Studio 54. I’d been looking forward to the show for months, and I wasn’t disappointed. The show’s premise is so unique that it sucks the audience in and keeps them involved and entertained for the entire show.

As I mentioned on my own blog, Charles Dickens was in the process of writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood when he died on June 9,1870. Since the novel was unfinished, the musical lets the audience decide how the story will end.

The production is so intimate and interactive that the audience gets involved in the action from the very beginning. Before the show even begins, the actors travel about the theater and start talking to the audience, making sure they get to know the characters they’ll eventually be voting for by the end of the show. As the show-within-a-show starts, the Chairman (played by Jim Norton) introduces the audience to the characters, both those in the novel and their portrayers (we’re supposed to be watching a troupe in a Victorian England music hall, so the actors are technically playing two roles).

Drood’s entire cast is incredibly talented, starting with Stephanie J. Block in the title role. Block does a fantastic job impersonating a male with her tremendous vocal range. Other highlights from the cast include Will Chase as John Jasper, Betsy Wolfe as Rosa Bud, and Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller as the Landless siblings. Of course, Chita Rivera was brilliant as the Princess Puffer. It blew my mind that she’s almost 80 and she still held her own with all the younger performers. Chita Rivera has had an amazing career that spans over fifty years, and I’m so glad I was able to experience a small piece of it.

In the middle of Act II, the Chairman stops the action: “Ladies and gentlemen, it was at this point in our story that Mr. Charles Dickens laid down his pen forever.” Time to vote! Every show, the audience votes for three categories: Which person is the detective-in-disguise, which one murdered Edwin Drood, and which two will fall in love at the end. The first and last categories are decided by audience applause, but choosing the murderer involves splitting the audience into groups and counting votes based on hand-raising.

By the end of the night, we had “solved” our version of the mystery, but that ending wouldn’t last for long. Each performance has a different ending based on what the audience decides. Fans of the show even keep track of the results on the Broadway World message board, so you’re always able to see how the shows played out. I hope to get back to The Mystery of Edwin Drood before the end of its run in February so I can experience the fun all over again!