The ladies of LMezz were so intent on solving The Mystery of Edwin Drood they went on two different nights. Here are our reports, including alternate endings, crazy amazing belting, and much much more!
I saw Drood on a cold Thursday night. While the energy in the cast (and audience) was under the weather (ha!) it was a jolly good show. The audience elected Princess Puffer as the killer and set up Helena Landless with Durdles: their duet was simply hilarious. I absolutely loved the Clue-esque ending, with the murder outcomes illustrated by the shadows of actors behind a scrim. Another delight included the 19th century costumes, designed by William Ivey Long. (Seriously. I’ve never gotten so much shoe/stocking envy until I saw the women ensemble’s color coded boots. So pretty!)
Finally, I am all about the female performances of this cast. I got to see Chita Rivera. Singing. On a Broadway stage. Betsy Wolfe’s performance as Rosa Bud was plucky and such fun. And Drood has made me obsessed with Stephanie J. Block. Obsessed!
Drood sounds like my kind of show. A Victorian-set comedy with a play-within-a-play structure with enormous amounts of audience participation. Sounds like my theater dream come true. The actual show though is less thrilling. While the performances were great (Who knew Smash’s Will Chase was such a ham?) and the costumes and scenery were extreme eye candy, it never really amounts to much more than cute. There’s a plot and a lot of fun, weird characters, but they remain stock characters without much motivation or dilemma. I actually enjoyed the songs, but they all felt out of place– either much darker or much too complex than their surroundings. The songs would have worked perfectly in a much more nuanced show or under better direction. And I have never seen an audience more mellow during intermission.
When it came time to pick the murderer, my sister (who came with me) and I really couldn’t care less. We picked the parson because we thought he’d have the most complicated motivation in killing Drood. The rest of the audience probably had the same idea because the parson won the vote. Too bad there wasn’t any more motivation than we might have guessed using the scant information we already had on him.
On our way home, my sister asked me, Maybe it would have worked if it wasn’t a play within a play? If they weren’t introducing each actor’s entrance and so on…? I said, But those were the best parts! It was all the murky, mucky stuff in between that bored me!
Maybe Drood’s lack of energy comes from the show trying to be two things at the same time. On the one hand, it’s trying to be self-aware and meta-theatrical. If a show goes that route, it’s entering into an agreement to abandon realism. The comedy of the show also stems from it’s awareness of theatrical conventions. It’s why the comedy in other self-aware shows like Peter and the Starcatcher or The 39 Steps work so spectacularly well. If you’re going to expose the show’s artificiality, you can’t really expect audiences to get swept up in plot and characters so instead, you work with wit, conventions, and perhaps a complexity of ideas.
Drood, however tries to be both this AND realist. It’s play within a play has both a fake play (Drood) and a real one (Music Hall). The cast tries to make its Music Hall Venue as realist as possible, even having the 1895-minded actors mingle with the audience before the show. At the same time, the fake play, Drood, also tries to be too realist, with its hyper-sets and costumes, its misplaced, darkly emotional songs, all of which are supposed to sweep us away into the story. Thing is, we can’t be in the London Music Hall and Cloisterham at the same time. Well, maybe we can, given a funnier, better production?