BWW Reviews: British Music Hall Humor Comes Alive with FlynnArts' DROOD

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FlynnArts Summer Youth Theater opened THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD on Thursday, July 31 at Burlington's FlynnSpace at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts.

With music, book, and lyrics by Rupert Holmes, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD is based on Charles Dickens' unfinished novel of the same name. Dickens died before writing the story's ending, leaving his intention for the mystery's solution unknown. Holmes wrote several different endings for the musical, and audience members vote on how the story should end. DROOD is a play-within-a-play, wherein the troupe at the Theatre Royale attempts to present Dickens' tale. True to British music hall style, the story proceeds with plenty of audience participation and hilarious, larger-than-life characterizations.

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD opened on Broadway in 1985, notably starring Betty Buckley and George Rose, and went on to win five Tony Awards, two of which went to Holmes for his book and score. The 2012 Broadway revival cast included Jim Norton, Stephanie J. Block, Betsy Wolfe, Will Chase, and Chita Rivera.

The FlynnArts cast does a remarkably fine job with Holmes' difficult score. The ensemble numbers are particularly well-executed, with excellent musical direction by Piero Bonamico, and captivating staging/choreography by Gina Fearn, Danielle Sertz, and Christina Weakland.

Oskar Flemer is wonderfully creepy as the tormented choirmaster John Jasper. Isabella Bertoni is a charming Rosa Bud, the object of John Jasper's obsession. Becca Janney's portrayal of Princess Puffer, the opium den proprietress with a mysterious past, is great fun.

Jackson Bisaccia and Emily Luce are stellar as the brother and sister from Ceylon, Neville and Helena Landless. Both sing particularly well and have excellent comedic timing, and this production puts Bisaccia's dance training to good use.

Michael Lawler and Arlo Cohen make a hilarious team as Durdles the gravedigger and his deputy, and Nathaniel Miller and Max Chlumecky are perfect in the roles of Reverend Crisparkle and his assistant, Bazzard.

Bridget Doherty is outstanding as the famed "male impersonator" Alice Nutting, who plays the role of Edwin Drood. Doherty navigates from the female Alice Nutting to the male Edwin Drood seamlessly, and her singing is excellent throughout. (That last note in "The Writing on the Wall"? Doherty nails it.)

Tim Lewis weaves the pieces of the show together as Chairman Cartwright, a sort of emcee. Lewis has phenomenal stage presence, and he leads the audience through the story with ease and humor.

Anna Cornish, Rebecca Gardener, Savannah Yates, Julia Sioss, Sadie Anderson, Margaret Thompson, Sawyer Thompson, Charlie Aldrich, Seamus Buxton, Benjamin Recchia, Troy Anderson, Zachary Varricchione, and Tommy Bergeron provide a strong presence in supporting and ensemble roles.

Audiences can't help but enjoy this rollicking, music hall romp through Dickensian England. (Perhaps you'll want to attend more than once, as the ending may be different each time!)

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD continues through Sunday, August 3 at FlynnSpace in Burlington. Click HERE for tickets and additional information.

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From This Author Erin McIntyre

Erin McIntyre is delighted to be writing about Vermont's rich performing arts scene. She spent a number of years in New York City singing, acting, (read more...)