Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back In Time: 1985-86: The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Part II

*NOTE: This blog entry has been corrected since it first appeared. Please see the comment at the end of the article for an explanation.

In this second part of four looking back at 1986's Best Musical Tony winner, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and later, just Drood, I'll take a look at the creative team behind the show: where they were before, during and after the show. It is pretty interesting (to me, at least!). I hope you enjoy.

Rupert Holmes: Book, Music and Lyrics

Before Drood: Holmes was most famous as the singer-songwriter of the classic song, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." He had a few other hits, and did some songwriting for film.

During Drood: The show that sarted it all for his theatre career, he was the very first person to win the Tony for Best Book and Best Score of a musical, and *that didn't happen again until Jonathan Larsen received both for RENT.

  • After Drood: Mr. Holmes went on to write much more for the theatre, including the plays Accomplice, Solitary Confinement (both mysteries of sorts, and both fast flops), the one-man play that ran neary two years on Broadway and had a long national tour, Say Goodnight, Gracie (Tony nominee, Best Play). TV fans might remember his series, Remember WENN, about the 40's radio station and featuring scads of Broadway talent, including his Drood, Betty Buckley; he is also a best-selling novelist of Swing and Where the Truth Lies, which was also made into a movie starring Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon. Most reccently, he contributed music, book and lyrics to Kander and Ebb's own mystery musical, Curtains, earning another Tony nod for Best Musical). His The First Wives Club: The Musical is on track for Broadway in the coming seasons.

Wilford Leach: Direction

Before Drood: A staple at the New York Shakespeare Festival, he helmed the landmark revival of The Pirates of Penzance, starring Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith. Leach won his first Tony for direction for the show, and he also directed the film version. He was also an acclaimed stage designer.

During Drood: Wilford Leach won his second Tony Award for direction of a musical. This was no small fete, considering that this was the first (and to date) only Broadway musical that featured dozens of possible endings, selected on the spot by the audience and acted out by the company.

  • After Drood: Sadly, Mr. Leach passed away in 1988.

Graciela Daniele: Choreography

Before Drood: Ms. Daniele was a Broadway performer before she began choreographing. She appeared as the original Hunyak in the original Chicago. Before that she appeared with Katharine Hepburn in Coco, and the original companies of Promises, Promises and Follies. Among her early choreography: The Pirates of Penzance, Zorba (Revival) and The Rink. She is married to lighting designer Jules Fischer.

During Drood: Daniele earned her third Tony nomination for the show. She was previously nominated for Pirates and The Rink.
  • After Drood: Graciela Daniele continues to be a force in Broadway choreography. She wrote the book and fully staged Dangerous Games, directed and choreographed Once on This Island; she wrote, conceived and staged Chronicle of a Death Foretold, earning Tony nods for both Best Book and Best Choreography. Other credits include choreography/staging for the original Ragtime, The Goodbye Girl, The Pirate Queen, and the solo Broadway shows of Barbara Cook, Chita Rivera and Elaine Stritch. All told, she has been nominated for 10 Tony Awards, 9 Drama Desks, and that doesn'y even account for her off-Broadway work. Most recently, she provided the dances for the Pal Joey revival.

The Designers

Bob Shaw: Scenic Design

  • Before Drood: The Pirates of Penzance, The Human Comedy

  • During Drood: Shaw was Drama Desk nominated for his design of Drood.

  • After Drood: Coastal Disturbances

Paul Gallo: Lighting Design

Before Drood: Among the many: Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, the revival of The Little Foxes and the musical Tintypes.

During Drood: He designed the lights for Drood (Drama Desk nomination) and The House of the Blue Leaves for Lincoln Center Theatre (Tony nomination).

After Drood: Among the many shows (37 on Broadway since Drood): Smile, the revival of Anything Goes, City of Angels, Crazy for You, Guys and Dolls (1992), Titanic, 42nd Street (2001), and most recently, Pal Joey. He has been nominated for 10 Drama Desks and 8 Tony Awards.

Lindsay W. Davis: Costume Design

  • Before Drood: He assisted on the 1981 revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

  • During Drood: Davis made his solo design debut on Broadway with The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

  • After Drood: He designed the play The Cemetary Club. He continues to teach costume design.

Michael Starobin: Musical Direction

Before Drood: He got his Broadway start orchestrating no less than Sunday in the Park with George!

During Drood: The show was his first as a Broadway musical director.

After Drood: He has gone on to orchestrate or arrange 18 Broadway shows including the legendary Carrie, Legs Diamond, Falsettos, Spelling Bee, Young Frankenstein, and Disney's The Little Mermaid. He won Tony Awards for Assassins and next to normal.

Part III: The Ensemble of Edwin Drood, including the Oscar nominated director of a Best Picture winner.

Comments? Leave one here or email me at



  1. Hi Jeff! I'm liking your blog a lot, very interesting and quirkily endearing. As for Drood, I never have gotten a chance to see it live, but I've heard the recording and enjoyed it, though I feel like it comes across stronger live and with the book. Just one thing: didn't Jonathan Larson win both score and book tonys for Rent? I know Lionel Bart was nominated for both for Oliver, but I believe he lost book to Forum that year.

  2. Hi, David! Thanks so much for your compliment and for reading. (Tell your friends!)

    And thank you for catching my error. I don't know how I forgot that, especially considering that I just did a piece on the final performance DVD!

    And yes, knowing the show and having seen it live adds much to the enjoyment of the Drood cast recording. I saw it the first time before the album came out. When it did, I literally wore out the first track on side one, "There You Are". I had to buy a second record! I hope you get to see the show somewhere, and done by a good group - it is a tough one to pull off correctly!

    Quirkily yours,
    Jeff :-)

  3. Haha I will indeed, though my friends generally aren't the obsessive theatre type (how unfortunate for them! XD), I'll definitely spread the word.

    Ah, I have a bunch of records (my parents' recordings, including the first releases of dolly and 1776, among others), but no working record player unfortunately, listening to an ipod or computer just isn't the same. But still, Betty Buckley is always a pleasure, and hearing early Rob Marshall, Donna Murphy originating her first role (or roles, as the case may be) and Judy Kuhn's debut is priceless, while Cleo Laine is a revelation in her only Broadway role (though she did play the Witch in Into the Woods on tour for 6 months or so I believe), and George Rose's final role before he passed away a year after it closed is touching to look back upon. I hope I haven't spoiled the next post, but this cast is filled with gems.

    Ah, there are so many good groups around here (DC Metro), I feel like some place like Signature could take it and put it in its black box and it would work wonderfully. But that's just me :D.


  4. No worries, David. It is great to share ideas with someone else who feels as passionately about theatre - even theatre that you haven't seen! You didn't spoil a thing, you just add to it! Judy, Rob and Donna are all in the next part to come. And of course, Betty, Howard, Patti, Cleo and George will be in part four.

    From what I've heard of Signature (Glory Days one year, the Tony the next) they might be just the ones to do Drood justice...

    Stay in touch! (Feel free to email or continue here...)

  5. Oh yes, I love rambling along about these things (if I had the time I'd blog... if only), and having someone listen is such a novelty! and some of my strongest opinions are regarding shows I have never seen XD. Oh, joy! I'm excited.

    Ah, it's unfortunate that that show was the show that transferred, of all the fantastic shows they've done, this one was probably one of a few which could have been transferred to a larger stage. You see, Signature does mostly environmental stagings in its 3/4 thrust stage space (the larger of the two spaces, 350 seats), which would require major staging changes for a different space, and the 115 seat theatre is often so intimate that it would be nonsensical to go to a bigger space. Which is why I was so puzzled by the move to Broadway. Peter Marks liked it, which really means nothing, I can't stand his reviews, they are quite pretentious and often are biased and irrational. But there is far, far better work at Signature than that. Les Miz last year was utterly thrilling, Witches of Eastwick was greatly improved and enhanced a lukewarm show, Pacific Overtures was fascinating, I could go on and on. The reimaginings of all of these shows such as Show Boat, which I saw two weeks ago and adored, Les Miz, Allegro, Urinetown, My Fair Lady etc. were all so brilliantly done, and all of the Sondheims are unparalleled; when you're that close to everything, it's a whole new perspective. If anyone would do Drood justice around here, Signature is it.

    Keep up the swell words!


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