Audience participation helps unravel this incomplete Dickensian mystery!


Pictured Left to Right: Jason Guerrero, Aaron Fellows, Sarah McCully, Maya Martin-Udry. Abigail Kullberg, Dakota Ceneta. Photo by Joe McCary.
November 16, 2011

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Jenni Sherba, a student at Stone Bridge High School , reviews The Mystery of Edwin Drood, performed by Albert Einstein High School , as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

“A mystery without a murder is no mystery at all!” so exclaims a character in Albert Einstein High School’s performance of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Indeed, a mystery without a murder (or is there?) certainly provides a challenge to any cast, but the brave members of the Einstein production rose to the occasion and succeeded with energy and raw talent. 

 The Mystery of Edwin Drood (often shortened to Drood) is based off the Charles Dickens novel of the same name, a novel that would never be finished due to the unexpected death of the author.  In this way, the musical doesn’t strive to precisely represent the novel as much as attempt to suggest the multiple conclusions Dickens had in mind for his story.  The show first premiered in 1985 and later walked away with five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

 The Mystery of Edwin Drood is like no other musical in that it has a beginning, middle, but no established end. Impressively, the actors don’t know the conclusion of the story until the audience votes on who done it and who fell deeply, spontaneously, in love.  This presents unique challenges to the production, but the Albert Einstein cast performed admirably. 

 Drood also is unique in that it is a musical within a musical. Members of the “Music Hall Royale” circulate among the audience, introducing themselves to the patrons, consistently in character.  The narrator of the show, the Chairman (Aaron Fellows) introduces John Jasper (Jason Guerrero), choir master and uncle to Edwin Drood (Julia Timko). Drood is engaged to the beautiful Rosa Bud (Sarah McCully), who is Jasper's music pupil and the object of his lustful obsession. Reverend Crisparkle (Evan Griffiths) enters with his two exotic charges from Ceylon, Helena (Maya Martin-Udry) and Neville Landless (Storm Kowaleski). Neville is immediately attracted to Rosa, which makes him a rival to both Edwin and Jasper. All of the above and more are then subject to suspicion when Drood goes missing and is apparently murdered.  This is where Dickens “laid down his pen…and died,” and left the ending up to the audience.

 The script’s numerous prominent leads and supporting parts gave the Albert Einstein cast a chance to showcase its many multi-talented members. A standout was owner of an opium den, The Princess Puffer (Nadia Turner) whose first of several spellbinding solos “The Wages of Sin”, displayed her considerable vocal range and acting prowess nicely. 

 Additionally, Rory Beckett’s infectious, nuanced portrayal of young Deputy was eye-catching and delightfully humorous when featured, but was also consistent and supportive in her ensemble membership. 

 The elaborate silhouetted backdrops of a skyline and cemetery lent themselves to a simple yet effective set and with the help of creative lighting designs, provided mood and suspense.  There were a few issues with microphones, but the actors, especially Turner, responded accordingly and projected well, making the problems easy to ignore. In addition, there were some cases of over-acting and anticipating actions by the ensemble, along with a few pitch problems by vocalists, but their lively energy kept the story moving. 

 The Albert Einstein High School cast of The Mystery of Edwin Drood overcame many obstacles that come with the performance of such a complex show and was an entertaining distraction to those “acolytes of the ‘thespianic’ persuasion.”

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