Thursday, June 25, 2015

Solving the Mystery of Edwin Drood at Lakewood Playhouse

  Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 25, 2015

Steve Tarry (Chairman), Gary Chambers (Jasper) and the ensemble cast. Photo by Kate Paterno-Lick
The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Lakewood Playhouse is a deliciously funny romp through merrie olde England. Based on an unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, Drood is a musical comedy that asks the audience to vote on whodunit. What a fun and ingenious concept by Rupert Holmes, who wrote the book, music and lyrics. Holmes is a Gilbert and Sullivan fan and a lover of Victorian mysteries and English music hall, all of which play prominently in this production. 
It is ably directed by Chris Serface, who played the part of Nick Criker in this same show at Capital Playhouse in 2004. 
In the English music hall tradition, actors mingle with the audience as they are taking their seats, cajoling them to vote for them and to boo and hiss the villain, John Jasper (Gary Chambers). These antics prior to curtain seemed to be uproariously fun for most of the audience, but from where I was seated in a the middle of the middle section is was a babble — so I urge you to get seats close to the aisles if you want to join in the fun.
The story is a play within a play, with each actor playing an actor in London’s Music Hall Royale, so Chambers plays Mr. Clive Paget as John Jasper and Christopher S. Cantrell plays Mr. Nick Criker as Durdles, and Brynn Garrett plays, plays Miss Alice Nutting, London’s most famous male impersonator, as Edwin Drood. As in pantos and other English stage nuttiness, there are cross dressers and an emcee (Steve Tarry as Mr. William Cartwright) who constantly stops the action to deride the audience with quips both improvised and scripted. There is even a set of identical twins who are of different races and different genders (DuWayne Andrews, Jr. as Mr. Victor Grinstead as Neville Landless, and Heather Malroy as Miss Janet Conover as Helena Landless).
Lex Gernon’s set replicates a seedy 19th century music hall with its box seats in the wings and tacky red curtains and his brilliant use of a moveable thrust. The costumes by Alex Lewington are both authentic looking and funny.
Steve Tarry is an absolute natural as the emcee who pokes fun at actors and audience alike and appears to be having a wonderful time doing it. 
Chambers seems to equally enjoy playing the villain, plus he is articulate and sings wonderfully.
Another actor who falls into his role so naturally as to become the character is Cantrell. His every move and facial expression is entertaining, down to the slightest movemen
Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson turns in a stellar performance as Miss Angela Prysock as the happiest of hookers, Princess Puffer. 
Also outstanding are Jed Slaughter as Mr. Cedric Moncrieffe as Rev. Chrisparkle and Derek Hall as Mr. Phillip Bax as Bazzard. Like Malroy as Helena Landless and Noah Goucher as Master Nick Criker as Durdles, Hall overplays to the hilt and does it like a pro. Plus his voice is astounding on the solo performance of “Never the Luck.”
There is some great music in the play provided by an eight-piece orchestra directed by Deborah Lynn Armstrong and some acrobatic dancing that is a treat to watch. The big numbers performed by the entire cast are particularly enjoyable. On some of the smaller numbers the music almost drowns out the singers.
At almost three hours, Drood is a little longer than I would have liked. By the time we got to the voting at the end I just wanted it to end. I wish Holmes had edited his script down closer to two hours. Other than these minor objections, I think it is a marvelously entertaining and delightfully bawdy musical romp. This weekend (((June 26-28) is the last chance to see it.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 28,
Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $29.00, $26.00 military, $27.00 seniors and $24.00 students/educators, pay what you can June 1, 253.588.0042,


Anonymous said...

hmmm. Did this particular show not have a Rosabud? I noticed most every actor got a mention except Rosabud. Who played her?

Alec Clayton said...

Dear Anonymous,

Yes, there was a Rosa Bud (listed as two names in the program). She was played by Allyson Jacobs-Lake, and was not the only character not mentioned in the review. I'm sorry I can't say something about everyone. -Alec