254 West 54th St.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 10, $42-$147
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is back on Broadway for the first time since the original production won five Tonys and nine Drama Desk Awards, and it’s as bawdylicious as ever. Featuring book, music, and lyrics by Rupert Holmes — yes, the man behind “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” — Drood is a brilliantly imagined take on Charles Dickens’s final novel, half of which was serialized in 1870 before the British writer died at the age of fifty-eight. Dickens’s Victorian tale is set in a frame story, told as if it were being performed by a troupe in London’s Music Hall Royale in 1895. The Drood story itself is regularly interrupted by the master of ceremonies, Mr. William Cartwright (a wonderful Jim Norton), who tries to keep order while directing the wild shenanigans, introducing the characters and their actors and speaking directly to the audience. (Almost everyone interacts with the crowd; be sure to arrive before curtain time, as the actors walk around the theater in character and chat with theatergoers.) Will Chase (Smash) stars as music hall actor Mr. Clive Paget, who plays John Jasper, the mustachioed villain of the show-within-a-show. Church choirmaster Jasper is in love with his student, young buxom blonde Rosa Bud (Betsy Wolfe as Miss Deirdre Peregrine), who is engaged to marry Edwin Drood (Stephanie J. Block as “famous male impersonator” Miss Alice Nutting; Drood is always played by a woman, including, in the past, Betty Buckley and Donna Murphy). Intrigue abounds when a pair of adult orphan siblings from Ceylon, Neville and Helena Landless (Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller as Mr. Victor Grinstead and Miss Janet Conover), are brought to the town by the Reverend Mr. Crisparkle (Gregg Edelman as Mr. Cedric Moncrieffe); the local drunk, Durdles (Robert Creighton as Mr. Nick Cricker), finishes a tomb for the mayor’s dead wife; and Jasper spends the night in an opium den run by the haughty Princess Puffer (Chita Rivera as Miss Angela Prysock, the role originated by Cleo Laine).
The story unfolds through such terrific production numbers as “There You Are,” “A Man Could Go Quite Mad,” “No Good Can Come from Bad,” and the music-hall troupe’s classic, non-Drood song, “Off to the Races,” but the Drood plot comes to a screeching halt when they reach the part where Dickens died. At that point, it all becomes even more fun as the audience votes on various aspects of the tale, including the identity of the strange detective who has been seen around town and, even more important, the murderer of Edwin Drood, who has disappeared. The plot proceeds from there, potentially different every night. (Try to show some compassion for poor Phillip Bax, amiably played by Peter Benson, who has little to do as Bazzard in the Drood retelling.) Director Scott Ellis (Harvey) and choreographer Warren Carlyle (Chaplin) keep things appropriately light and frothy, filled with playful humor and plenty of double entendres, making for an extraordinarily delightful night of theater.