Everything old is new again as Rupert Holmes’ delightful Tony Award-winning 1985 musical comedy whodunit “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” receives its Wright State University premiere beginning Thursday, March 15 in the Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center.
Inspired by the unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, the audience-friendly musical uses the conceptual framework of an old English Music Hall to tell its story of Edwin Drood, whose murder in the small town of Cloisterham, England baffles its citizens. Due to Dickens’ death, the audience gets to choose which character is the killer, often leading to hilarious and unique results.
“This show is wonderfully interactive because the audience is much more a part of the show rather than just watching it,” said director/choreographer Greg Hellems, who staged an entertaining “9 to 5” last season for WSU. “The constant breaking of the fourth wall engages people in a way they prefer to go to the theater for. This is an experience you wouldn’t have if you were sitting at home watching TV.”
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The large ensemble cast features principals Kenneth Erard as the Chairman, Kyle Miller as John Jasper, Megan Valle as Edwin Drood, Emma Buchanan as Rosa Bud, Alejandria Solis as Helena Landless, Nick Wasserbauer as Neville Landless, Casey Borghesi as Princess Puffer, Kyle Sell as Durdles, Rachel Woeste as Mr. James Throttle, and Sam Maxwell as The Reverend Mr. Crisparkle.
“This show offers a great opportunity for ensemble work,” Hellems added. “Plus, the actors have the challenge of playing two roles, the actor in the Music Hall Royale and the characters in the play. They also have to understand the show’s stylistic differences, particularly the melodrama happening within the play and the interplay happening with the audience. There are so many layers in this show.”
Hellems’ artistic team includes music director Scot Woolley, set designer Pam Knauert Lavarnway, lighting designer Matthew P. Benjamin, costumer Elizabeth Bourgeois, properties by John Lavarnway, and sound designer Ryan Burgdorf.
Holmes, most famous for “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” wrote a beautiful and challenging score consisting of such tuneful numbers as rousing opener “There You Are,” “The Wages of Sin,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Both Sides of the Coin,” “Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead,” and uplifting finale “The Writing on the Wall.”
“Perseverance is an important theme in ‘Writing on the Wall,’” Hellems noted. “It speaks to facing adversity and finding your own personal strength. There’s a common theme running throughout the show with every character about trying to manage and deal with their personal problems and how they overcome.”