In an era when Broadway revivals of beloved musicals can seem dispiritingly skimpy, this handsome production offers a generous feast for the eyes, trimmed in holiday cheer for an added spritz of currency...And the evening’s performers — including a bona fide Broadway grande dame, Chita Rivera; a host of plush-voiced singers; and the jovial imp Jim Norton as the evening’s M.C. — throw themselves into the winking spirit of the show...Despite its varied charms, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” remains a musical that ultimately adds up to less than the sum of its hard-working parts. The overelaborate finale — which includes not only the choosing of the murderer but also the selection of a detective and a happy couple to be paired off — somewhat taxes our delight in taking part…But then, who has not felt a bit deflated upon completing a page-turning detective story?...The musical “Edwin Drood” at least leaves behind moments of shimmering musical pleasure to savor, long after the miscreant of the night has been booed off the stage.
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD Broadway Reviews
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Cast with a dream team of New York theater talent, the Roundabout presents an inspired revival of Rupert Holmes’s interactive musical, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" ran for 608 performances. Now the Roundabout Theatre Company has brought "Drood" back to Broadway in a revival directed with rip-roaring éclat by Scott Ellis, and I'll be surprised if it doesn't run at least as long as the original 1985 production. For sheer fun, this show is hard to top.
Director Scott Ellis' lively, crowd-pleasing and — given the horrors of the East Coast storms and the abiding comedic quality of the material — very well-timed Broadway revival...all has the feeling of a live version of a star-laden holiday TV special, with many of the same pluses and minuses…As a solve-it-yourself, self-aware musical, "Drood" presents some traps, not all of which are here fully avoided. At various points, one has to force oneself to re-engage with the grand questions of the plot, which are not always tracked as adroitly as would be ideal. The best productions of "Drood" manage, at least in the final number, to exploit the way the lyrics allow the clutter of the show to fall away — and to help us ponder a few broader matters of life and death, at least in passing. That never happens here. But that was bothering almost no one inside Studio 54. Block, who seems relieved not to carry the entire enterprise, sounds particularly spectacular, as does Betsy Wolfe as the ripe ingenue Rosa Bud. Rivera, as one might imagine, could not be a more delightful presence in any romp in town.
Perhaps the best part is watching the first-rate cast have so much fun — Stephanie J. Block shows real comedic power, Jim Norton is having a ball, Chita Rivera is giggly, Gregg Edelman is just silly and Will Chase is over-acting perfectly...This is a play where overacting can be done to perfection…The jokes are hoary, the songs are ditties ("Off to the Races" is the best known) and the mystery not so mysterious — "You might like to add that line to your list of suspicious statements!" says one character to the audience — but the fun is infectious, even if it seems that the folks on stage might be having more of it than the paying guests…In the wrong hands, it can sit awkwardly in a Broadway house — too zany, too arch. But these are the right hands: There are veterans at every turn. So no matter who gets the most votes, everyone wins.
Director Scott Ellis could easily have pushed the pace into a gallop rather than a trot, and cranked up the zany-meter a notch or two. Still, for a show doing triple duty as musical, choose-your-own-ending mystery and time-travel device, “Drood” is jolly good fun.
But "fun" was what I returned to. It most exactly suggests the experience of seeing Rupert Holmes' musical, a production that embraces its audience in distinctively enjoyable ways.
The Roundabout's revival of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" is a diverting and amiable entertainment. Rupert Holmes' unconventional musical -- derived from Dickens' 1870 serial novel, unfinished when he died without a hint as to how he intended to tie up the plot -- was an exuberant romp when Joe Papp's Public Theater first produced it in 1985. The elements, and the highlights, remain the same, even if the ebullience at Studio 54 seems more manufactured than irrepressible in spots.
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood," inspired by an unfinished Charles Dickens novel, is one of the most inventive, inspired and rousing musicals ever devised. And it is a pleasure to report that the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival is thoroughly well-cast and extremely enjoyable…As atmospherically staged by Scott Ellis, with sprightly choreography by Warren Carlyle and excellent music direction by Paul Gemignani, this production is a reminder that well-known musicals do not need to be reconstructed or darkened for their revivals. If the show is strong, have faith in it and all will fall into place.
The show does have some jaunty, quasi-operetta music with beautiful harmonic blends and a ravishing cast -- including Chita Rivera as Princess Puffer, madam of the opium den, and Jessie Mueller as the slinky-to-her-eyebrows Helena Landless, who, with her brother (Andy Karl) brings a bit of Colonial commentary as the exotics from Ceylon. Jim Norton maneuvers around the fast-patter songs with aplomb as the emcee; Stephanie J. Block is authoritative as Drood, the young gentleman who disappears. His beloved (Betsy Wolfe) is coveted by the opium fiend-music teacher (Will Chase)...Instead of trusting the characters and the mystery to build the suspense, however, Holmes aims for the campy, tiresome and childish. To vote, one presumably cares about who does what to whom. Considering Dickens' storytelling genius, the real mystery is why this isn't fun.
The original Drood was flawless, but this one--directed by Scott Ellis--does quite nicely, with splendid sets, good casting, and solid attention to the score, which is sophisticated and fun, only a couple of the songs making things temporarily turgid. In the cast, Gregg Edelman, Andy Karl, Jessie Mueller, Robert Creighton, and the gang are comically deft in their suspicous roles. Stephanie J. Block as Drood and Betsy Wolfe as his fiance Rosa Bud, handle the high-power singing. And as opium-wielding Princess Puffer, Chita Rivera lends her legendary presence and wit, making for a surprising Cockney matron and pulling it off with sass and class…It was magical. I vote yes.
One of the refrains sung by the Victorian music hall performers in The Mystery of Edwin Drood is, “No good can come from bad.” The case isn’t quite so black and white in this 1985 “musicale with dramatic interludes” by Rupert Holmes, teased out of the unfinished Charles Dickens novel. But regardless of the accomplished cast and sparkling design and direction in Roundabout’s Broadway revival, nothing great can come of mediocre material…Holmes’ show scores points for ingenuity, but it often feels like being stuck for too long in front of an olde-worlde department-store window display. A vehicle running 2½ hours needs more memorable songs than these mostly interchangeable parlor ditties, and more engaging characters than this bunch, which by design, are cardboard cutouts enlivened by melodramatic flourishes. A genuinely intriguing mystery rather than a half-baked whodunit devoid of psychological complexity wouldn’t hurt either.
Drood, ultimately, is not a complete show so much as an expandable playspace, and with performers of this caliber, an evening of yeasty, nudge-nudge-wink-wink British good humor is more or less guaranteed. The show-within-the-show may drone a bit, but the show-around-the-show sparkles.
Edwin Drood's chief claim to fame is Holmes' clever script, particularly his ingenious means of handling the fact that Dickens never wrote the material for the final act. So Holmes simply stops the show, mid-song, and throws crucial questions — including the identity of whodunit — to the audience to decide by democratic vote. As a result, the cast must prepare multiple versions of the ending, with different lyrics and lines dusted off depending on the outcome of the polling. And there's visible delight on stage when theatergoers make less conventional, Herman Cain-like choices. But as Rivera and her top-vote-getting love interest struggled to stay in character through their melodic seduction — clearly this was a new pairing for the cast — it struck me that the obvious joy of the performers on stage was not always translating across the proscenium. Suspiciously, I have to wonder if this is one entertainment that is just more fun to perform than to watch. B
Director Scott Ellis’ edition is brisker and brighter than Wilford Leach’s original, most notably in the performances of Will Chase and Betsy Wolfe as Jasper and Rosa. Chase opts for energetic mustache-twirling and Wolfe sticks with innocent and virginal, though both sing powerfully. In the pants role of Drood, Stephanie Block cavorts with a winking manliness and employs her spectacular voice authoritatively, though she lacks originator Betty Buckley’s sharp edge. Jessie Mueller and Andy Karl milk Helena and Neville’s cartoon exoticism for big laughs, and Gregg Edelman dithers appropriately as Crisparkle. Best are the elegantly authentic Jim Norton, absolutely the equal of the peerless George Rose as the troupe’s leader and our host, and, as Puffer, the playful Chita Rivera, who knows in her bones how to do a star turn despite the worst cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke. The audience I saw “Drood” with adored it, and I suspect most will, so hooray for Roundabout. Alas, the show still makes my teeth hurt.