Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Mysteries of The Mystery of Edwin Drood

I've often written about that extra, extra special moment when a show really strikes a chord with you - emotionally, intellectually, creatively.  Lots of shows come close if you love the live theatre.  But you know the difference the first time that extra special show comes along, and you spend sometimes years trying to find that next one.  In my - gulp - 29 years of attending Broadway shows, that truly special bolt of lightning has hit my theatre bulls eye just 4 times: A Chorus Line (the first and most special), Sweeney Todd (a thrill in every way, and it opened my eyes to the world of Sondheim), next to normal (it revealed to me emotions I didn't know I had), and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (the first show that really made me appreciate the art form of American Musical Theatre).  Funny, touching, smart, creative, literary and literally participatory.

Drood then: Betty Buckley as Edwin Drood in 1985
Read all about the original production 
by clicking the "Back in Time" tab above

In the current world where we, as an audience, are invited to see the goings on in people's lives, and vote on matters of creative life and death for any numbers of talented individuals, the "solve-it-yourself-Broadway-musical" probably seems quaint and old-fashioned.  But the truth is, Drood, was way ahead of its time.  I remember the buzz of excitement and tinge of confusion as the pollsters whisked around the theatre taking our votes for who killed young Edwin Drood.  Most people did their best to play along, even if they weren't entirely sure what to do.  I remember the very first time I saw the show on Broadway.  The lady behind me raised her hand reluctantly, along with the rest of her family, as they voted in a block.  "Oh!  I'm sure it wasn't him (she voted for the Reverend Crisparkle)!  I should have paid more attention!"  Today's audiences are much better trained - they know what good singing and acting looks like (generally, anyway) and years of watching The Real World, Survivor and the like have taught all of us to look closely at every minute thing a person does.  What could be more perfect for The Mystery of Edwin Drood?

Drood now: The 2012 revival logo

And now, some 27 years later, the very first revival of my favorite theatrical musical is gearing up for a run in a few months.  With it comes a few "mysteries" about The Mystery of Edwin Drood 2.0.

  • Will this version be a strict revival of the original? or...
  • Will any of the revisions to the book in subsequent productions (tours, London, Australia) be in place? or...
  • Will Rupert Holmes be back to further revise and reshape is Tony-winning book?
  • Will he re-institute the original opening number, "There'll Be England Again"?  or will it go elsewhere in the score?  How about "A British Music Hall," a number that never made the final cut.
  • Will this version incorporate the changes to the score, including the now optional (in the version you can rent to produce) "Ceylon" or use "A British Subject"?  Will "A Man Could Go Quite Mad" really be optional?  Will "A Private Investigation" take the place of "Settling Up the Score? (I hope so) or...
  • Will there be some entirely new numbers?

Late last week, a new set of up and comers and theatre legends was announced, ready to pick up the mantle.  And I have to say that if the unique announcement by the Roundabout Theatre Company of the cast is any indication as to the commitment and creativity of this revival, it should be awesome!

Of course, with the casting, come a few more questions:

  • Will the legendary Chita Rivera "win" every night because she's THAT awesome? or... 
  • Will Merrily We Roll Along alum Betsy Wolfe steal the show as ingenue Rosa Bud? or...
  • Will Will Chase have what it takes to be the very first Broadway John Jasper to actually be voted murderer? or...
  • Will Andy Karl be super sexy and scary as Neville Landless? or...
  • Will critical and fan favorite Jessie Mueller give them all a run for their money?  (And the burning "real life" question: What if Into the Woods transfers?  Will she leave Drood behind for the steps of the palace?  If they are both hits (wouldn't that be awesome???) She could open both and stay with one, right?
  • And will Stephanie J. Block be able to hit the high note at the end of "The Writing on the Wall"?

Drood 2.0: Block, Chase and Karl

These questions, and many more will be answered on October 19th when the Twitter-verse comes alive with the news of young Edwin, his betrothed, Rosa Bud and the citizens of Cloisterham!

And that is just 98 days...

@jkstheatrescene (Twitter); jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com (email); or comment below (Blogger)

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