“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” musical was the brain-child of song writer Rupert Holmes who wrote the book, the music and the lyrics.  He was well rewarded for his efforts with two Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. The musical won five Tony Awards and six other nominations.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” opened up on Dec. 5, at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

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The musical debuted as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival in August 1985 and transferred to Broadway, where it ran until May 1987. Two national tours and a production in London's West End followed, and The Roundabout Theatre Company revived the musical on Broadway in 2012.

“’The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ is a spectacular way to experience the magic of live theater,” said Andrew Kato, the Theatre’s producing artistic director and chief executive. “The show’s unpredictability is so exciting, both for the audiences and performers. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, fun-filled evening out this holiday season, this is it!” 

I couldn’t agree more.  

It is nonstop, fast-paced, and funny.  You have to try to see and hear every nuance and every blatancy to be able to vote for the guilty villain.  Just because one character is singing doesn’t mean that others aren’t establishing alibis or sinister plots.. 

The musical was based on Charles Dickens’ last novel by the same title which Dickens had failed to complete before he died.  He left no clues as to which character had done the foul deed. 

So Holmes broke new ground and invited the audience to vote for the most likely candidate. Since there are eight candidates for the honor, there are eight possible endings.  That must be a challenge for the actors.  

Whether or not, soliciting the audience appears to be a great hit with theatre goers and the Maltz audience seemed no exception. They were engaged from the opening moments when the actors playing the murder roles worked the audience, introducing themselves and soliciting their votes.

The murder action takes place in a small English town named Cloisterham with an interesting collection of Dickensian characters, anyone of whom could have been the killer of young Drood.  The role of Drood is played by a female actor (Autumn Hurlbert) as was the custom of the pantomime genre. 

The dramatization of the mystery takes place on the stage of London’s Music Hall Royale in 1895.  Members of the music hall troupe are enacting the various roles of the characters in the murder, interspersing the dialogue with their own comments, jokes, exaggerated facial expressions and general pantomime.

Jennifer Werner, known locally for her work on the Maltz productions of “The Wiz” and “Cabaret,” directed and choreographed this show.  It was nice to see music director Caryl Fantel and ten musicians on stage supporting the songs and action.  Normally they’re out of sight.

Werner leads a dynamic creative team that includes associate director and choreographer JR Bruno, scenic designer Michael Schweikardt, lighting designer Paul Miller, costume designer Andrea Hood, sound designer Marty Mets and the aforementioned music director Caryl Fantel.

An ensemble piece, the 11-person cast, includes (with local productions in parentheses) Richard B. Watson (“Anything Goes”); Badia Farha (“The Wiz”); Autumn Hurlbert (“Beehive”) and Andrew Sellon (“The Foreigner” and “The 39 Steps”).

“We are transforming the Maltz Jupiter Theatre into a festive, holiday-themed Victorian Music Hall,” Werner said. “Audiences will be swept up in the madcap ‘whodunnit’ storytelling by our endearing, lovable acting troupe.”

Need a rest from shopping and other holiday preparations? Have some fun and go help an audience solve “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

 

The theatre is located at 1001 E Indian Town Road. The musical runs through December 19.  Single tickets start at $62. For tickets and showtimes, call 561-575-2223 or visit www.jupitertheatre.org.

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