Rupert Holmes most likely did not channel Charles Dickens when he converted Dickens last unfinished novel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” to a musical. However, the cast of “DROOD: The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is apparently channeling the great English musical comedy actors at the Pollard Theatre in downtown Guthrie, Oklahoma. As the novel had not been completed before the death of Dickens the intended ending is unknown. Holmes converted the novel into a musical with numerous endings which the audience has the opportunity of selecting. Additionally, the audience is given the chance to determine the primary romantic entanglements (what fun!) as Holmes has written many conceivable versions to accommodate the public’s whim.
W. Jerome Stevenson, Artistic Director, takes on an interesting task with an interesting cast. The actors in the Pollard production must recreate the cast of an English music hall. When actors portray actors as they act on stage, situations develop that can be fraught with foolishness. Sometimes the music hall cast members drop character and break concentration. When this occurs and the actor is able to consistently maintain the primary character success is guaranteed. “DROOD: The Mystery of Edwin Drood” accomplishes this feat with superb mastery across the board. The subtleties are clear and the humor is chortling. This is a musical comedy that keeps the convolutions understandable and presents the musical renditions hysterically.
Music Halls of the period often used actresses to play youthful male roles as in the past youths were often used to portray women. Therefore, in this case the part of Edwin Drood is handled by the most popular male impersonator of the age (according to the Mr. William Cartwright, Chairman); the incomparable Miss Alice Nutting. The role of Nutting as Drood and herself is expertly handled by Trinity Goodwin. Drood is engaged to the simpering Rosa Bud portrayed by Miss Deirdre Peregrine and this role is done beautifully by Heidi Sue Wallace. The two lovers are both orphans who are influenced by the uncle of Edwin Drood, John Jasper who is in love with Rosa Bud himself. James Parker does an outstanding job of playing the solid Mr. Clive Paget who has the role of John Jasper. A brother and sister, raised in Ceylon, come to Cloisterham to complete their education. Jake DeTommaso as Mr. Victor Grinstead, the actor who plays Neville Landless, excitable young brother and Susan Riley as Miss Janet Conover performing as the exotic Helena Landless.
Chairman/Mr. William Cartwright/Mayor Thomas Sapsea is masterfully done by Doug Ford. Ford has an excellent quality of creating a Master of Ceremonies talent for this show. Michael Edsel is the flurried Stage Manager/Mr. James Throttle contributes evenly. Further excellent performances are provided by Crystal Ecker as Miss Isabel Yearsley/Wendy, Gwendolyn Evans as Miss Florence Gill/Beatrice, Matthew Wampler as Master Nick Cricker/Deputy and the excellent James A. Hughes as Mr. Cedric Moncrieffe/The Reverend Mr. Crisparkle.
Three performances that scale the heights are given by James Ong as Mr. Nick Cricker/Durdles, Carl Lance as Mr. Philip Bax/ Buzzard and the very talented Elin Bhaird as the grande dame: Miss Angela Prysock/The Princess Puffer. The hilarity these three bring to the show simply can’t be beat!
“Drood: The Mystery of Edwin Drood” can be seen at the Pollard Theatre through November 5, 2011. The Pollard Theatre is located in downtown, Guthrie at 111 E. Oklahoma. Ticket information is available on line at www.thepollard.org or by calling 405-282-2800.