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November 14, 2012

TT: An election everyone can love

Because of a glut of openings on Broadway, The Wall Street Journal has given me an extra drama column this week in which I review the Roundabout Theatre Company's excellent new revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Here's an excerpt.

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If Charles Dickens had lived to finish "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," it might have ended up becoming one of his best-remembered books, though not so much for its literary quality as its subject matter. Imagine, if you dare, a novel about an outwardly respectable choirmaster who is secretly addicted to opium and who strangles his nephew in a fit of passion (or does he?) because they're both in love with the same woman. Who could resist a yarn like that? It's got everything but serial murder! Alas, Dickens died of a stroke in 1870 before he could pen the final chapters, and the unfinished manuscript became a half-forgotten curiosity known only to Dickens buffs and scholars of Victorian literature--until Rupert Holmes came along.

MED19_605x329.jpgMr. Holmes, a multitalented singer-songwriter who topped the pop charts in 1979 with "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," had the uncommonly clever idea to turn "Drood" into a Broadway musical in which the audience is invited to vote on the ending. Is Edwin Drood really dead? If so, did John Jasper, the mad choirmaster, kill him--or was he murdered by one of the other characters? As gimmicks go, that's a pretty slick one, and though Mr. Holmes had never previously written anything for the stage, "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....

Mr. Ellis keeps his actors on the gallop, and they give every sign of having the time of their lives, especially the plummy-voiced Jim Norton, who never met an "r" he didn't rrrrroll. No less amusing is Chita Rivera, the proprietress of the opium den in which Jasper (Will Chase) takes his discreet leisure. Ms. Rivera delivers her lines in an accent that is an indescribably complicated and preposterous mixture of mock-Cockney and...well, something else. While the singular talents of Jessie Mueller, one of the most gifted young singers to hit Broadway in the past decade, are largely wasted on the supporting role of Helena Landless, an exotic babe from Ceylon, it's still a pleasure to see and hear her in any capacity whatsoever....

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted November 14, 2012 12:00 AM

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