Dickensian delight

The Pollard Theatre continues its 25th season with the Tony-winning 1985 musical comedy “Drood: The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

Written by musician Rupert Holmes, “Drood” is inspired by Charles Dickens’ final, unfinished, novel. Its conceit is that the production is being mounted by the loony Victorian troupe Music Hall Royale, with all the actors impressively pulling double duty as both a member of the theater company and a character in their flamboyant staging of “Drood.”

It’s not as confusing as it sounds. The story centers on young Rosa Bud; her fiancé, Edwin Drood; and two suitors who might be willing to kill Edwin to get at Rosa.

The list of suspects responsible for Edwin’s disappearance hilariously includes most of the cast by the end of Act 2. Since Dickens himself died before completing the tale, it falls to an audience vote to resolve the story.

While loads of fun, the script has pacing problems, with Act 2 treading water to provide more buildup for the mostly satisfying finale. However, director W. Jerome Stevenson and his incredible cast manage to overcome most of the flaws with infectious, rambunctious energy.

James Parker plays the Jekyll-and-Hyde suitor with maniacal glee, both imminently creepy and highly watchable. He and Doug Ford tear it up in the ridiculously overwritten, tongue tangling “Both Sides of the Coin.”

Staying true to the English pantomime tradition, the male role of Edwin is played with cornball class by actress Trinity Goodwin. Heidi Wallace gets to showcase great comedic timing and considerable vocal talent.

Elin Bhaird brings laughter and sympathy to the role of opium den madame, owning two of the show’s best songs, “The Wages of Sin” and “The Garden Path to Hell.”

Susan Riley and Jake DeTommaso do stellar work as the Landless twins, with DeTommaso in particular throwing himself into the piece’s overdramatic style. James Ong lights up the stage as the wisecracking Durdles, accompanied by Matthew Wampler as his delightfully prancing assistant.

James A. Hughes does solid work as the comical Rev. Crisparkle, and Carl Lance shines, hijacking the show toward the end of Act 1.

“Drood” features a parade of lovely costumes by Michael James and a solid orchestra under the direction of Todd Malicoate, while Beverly Caviness’ choreography is appropriately loose at times. The serviceable set design by Don Childs, while a little lackluster, doesn’t detract from the proceedings. The uncredited lighting design gets a little too dark in a few scenes, obscuring the actors’ work.

Eric Webb

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