BWW Review: THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD at Hershey Area Playhouse
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a unique musical theater collaboration between the author of Oliver Twist and the guy who wrote the Pina Colada song. Just in case you aren't up on your British Literature or 70's trivia, I am referring to Charles Dickens and Rupert Holmes. Dickens died before the "Drood" novel was finished. Holmes picked up the gauntlet over a hundred years later by converting it into an musical comedy with tons of audience participation.
Hershey Area Playhouse's production of the show is a lot of fun. The theater is on the small side, so there are actors a plenty running up and down the aisles, chitchatting with audience members, and adding to the atmosphere. Although I enjoy interactive theater, it should be noted that it isn't everyone's cup of tea. I once took my wife to see Cats and she had a plum orchestra aisle seat. You would have thought there were actual live tigers running loose considering how uncomfortable she got every time a cast member ran by!
Emilie Leyes stars as the title character, and does a fantastic job with the part. She has excellent stage presence and exudes confidence and charisma. She has an impressive vocal range, too. Alec Brashear shines as John Jasper, Drood's uncle and supposed villain of the piece. (The audience was instructed to boo every time his name was mentioned). He played his role well with equal parts menace and English pretention.
Other stand-outs include Neville (Wesley Hemmann) and Helena (Elena Rossetto) Landless, the foreign and funny brother and sister team, and the mysterious Princess Puffer (Maria Petriak). Kevin Biddle serves as The Chairman, a character that is a combination narrator, ring master, and zoo keeper.
The first act is a bit on the long side, and part of that can be blamed on the exposition needed to introduce all of the characters and plot points. Conversely, the second act was hilarious, dynamic and sharp. Every single cast member had moments to shine, make us laugh, and draw us in. Audience participation kicks into full gear at this point, when we are asked to vote on the identity of the killer.
I have a lot of respect and appreciation for this cast to be able to memorize, rehearse, and be prepared to perform multiple different endings. My production went off smooth as silk. Congratulations!
Congratulations also to director/choreographer, Eric Mansilla. He did a great job of moving people around the stage, both with blocking and with dance. The nine-piece orchestra was an excellent addition and had a rich, full sound.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a good show with moments of greatness, especially those that highlight the spontaneity of its talented cast. The show runs through October 13. Tickets and more info can be found at their website.