The Mystery of Edwin Drood, adapted from Charles Dickens’s unfinished novel of the same name, is currently being performed by the Foothill Music Theatre through March 15, 2020 at the Lohman Theatre (12345 El Monte Rd (I-280 & El Monte Road), Los Altos Hills). With Music, Book, and Lyrics by Rupert Holmes as was suggested by the unfinished novel, it is masterfully directed by Milissa Carey. This performance was a wonderful opportunity for me and my guest to step away from the worries and cares surrounding us and into the world of Dickens. I loved this show for its charm, and wit, the beautiful music, great costumes and sets, and that I was able to enjoy a different world for a couple of hours.
Holmes, who is a mystery novelist-playwright-composer-screenwriter-performer,is the first person in theatrical history to solely win Tony awards as an author, a composer and a lyricist. He solely authored The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which earned him Tony Awards for Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Musical.
This show is presented as a play within a play by a loony Victorian theatre company,. It debuted at New York Shakespeare Festival before moving to Broadway, where it became a smash hit, winning 4 Tony Awards including “Best Musical,” “Best Original Score,” and “Best Book.” Its 2012 Broadway Revival by Roundabout Theatre Company received a New York Times Critic’s Pick and five Tony Award nominations including “Best Revival of a Musical.” New York Post called The Mystery of Edwin Drood “jolly good fun,”and USA Today said this musical murder mystery “combines raucous comedy, lush tunes and audience participation to create a festive atmosphere in which life is celebrated, even if death is integral to the plot.”
Entering the Lohman Theatre and looking for our seats, we were immediately involved with the cast who chatted with audience members and even led us to our seats. Cockney speech accompanied the Victorian costumes that fit the mood and era in which the mystery took place. The cast was well chosen and convincing. Initially, there was a jumble of people who ultimately developed their characters so that I felt I knew them and their character. This is an important factor in the play because the ending depends on the audience and how they perceive these characters. The audience takes over from where Dickens left the play – he died. Heather Orth as Princess Puffer was great fun to watch but she was not the only one. And often, it was hard to know whether the cast or the audience was enjoying the play more.
John Mannion makes his Foothill Music Theatre debut as The Chairman, the host of the evening’s mysterious proceedings, and captivating. Brenna Sammon making her Foothill Music Theatre debut as Rosa Bud, Drood’s fiancée is fetching. Benjamin Ball in his Foothill Music Theatre debut as John Jasper, Drood’s devious uncle is the source of the audience booing. Rachelle Abbey and David Murphy take on the roles of Helena and Neville Landless, orphaned siblings who come from Ceylon to stay with Reverend Crisparkle. And bring the audience a different twist. Linda Piccone was energetic in the role of Mrs. Durdles, a gravedigger that tends to the catacombs of the Cloisterham cathedral. Aaron Hurley plays Reverend Crisparkle, who oversees the Cloisterham Cathedral. Amanda Ku (Music Director) is a collaborative pianist, theatre musician.
This show certainly fulfills the stated mission of Foothill Music Theatre which is to provide exceptional quality performances to the Bay Area. The musicians that I never saw provided excellent live music, the singing was lovely, the stage sets were enhanced by projections and clever manipulation, the costumes were perfect, the staging excellent as was the choreography. And the best part was that we left with an upbeat feeling that lasted to the next day. See this show before it gets away.
Performances are 7:30pm Thursdays, 8:00pm Fridays & Saturdays (with an added 2pm performance on Saturday, March 7), and 2pm Sundays at the Lohman Theatre, 12345 El Monte Rd (I-280 & El Monte Road), Los Altos Hills. Tickets ($12 – $36) and information can be found at www.foothill.edu/theatre or by phone at (650) 949-7360.
Photo Credit: David Allen