YOUTHFUL PERFORMERS WERE UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF “DROOD — THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD”
The students of PlayMakers Repertory Company and The ArtsCenter’s 2010 Summer Youth Conservatory definitely learned a lot about what makes good theater this summer. The culmination of their studies, a frisky four-day run of Rupert Holmes’ 1986 Tony Award-winning musical DROOD — THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, was a delightful evening’s entertainment. This clever musical play, based partially on the unfinished novel of 19th century English literary giant Charles Dickens (1812-70), is performed in two acts and allows the audience to vote on what the show’s resolution will be. Although this might seem like a vast undertaking for students aged 10 to 18, these youthful performers were up to the challenge.
Thanks to the always incredible directing skills of Tom Quaintance, who teamed with PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj to co-directed the recent warmly applauded two-part PRC production of THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, DROOD featured many strong performances. Emma DeWitt, in her dual role as William Cartwright and the Chairman, had a strong, natural stage presence; and her enthusiasm was contagious. Joshua Collier was thoroughly hissable as the show’s villain, John Jasper, sneering and grimacing his way to success. Indeed, it was very hard to believe that Collier was such a young performer, because his acting skills were on par with those of a seasoned professional. Olivia Griffin as Princess Puffer, particularly during her “Wages of Sin” musical number, and Ardyn Flynt as Helena Landless, were also very memorable.
The show opened with a lively and funny performance of “There You Are,” and things just got better from there. Jade Bettin’s bright period costumes, Erin Dangler’s impressively complex choreography, believable British accents, and McKay Coble’s realistic set combined to make this show an impressive step up for youth theater. In fact, by the time the company burst into a cheeky rendition of “Off to the Races,” it became quite easy to forget that these were young performers. The daring, adult-themed jokes also added to this feel.
Towards the end of the performance, as promised, audience members cast their votes on who the murderer of the evening will be. This was handled incredibly professionally, by cast members in character, so the mood of the show was not lost during this brief segment. Likewise, the resolution was handled without a hitch, making it difficult to believe that there are so many possible outcomes. Most important was the fact that DROOD aroused in the viewer a desire to see more — whether it be another performance of the show by the same company or an adult depiction of DROOD. The PlayMakers Repertory Company and The ArtsCenter brought DROOD to full, glorious life and made it an invigorating experience for viewers of all ages.
SECOND OPINION: July 25th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/072010/Drood.html; and July 20th Durham, NC HERALD-SUN preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan:http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/8814370/article-A-MUSICAL-MYSTERY?instance=main_article (NOTE: You must register first to read this article).
SHOW: http://www.playmakersrep.org/ and http://www.artscenterlive.org/.
PlayMakers Repertory Company: http://www.playmakersrep.org/.
The ArtsCenter: http://www.artscenterlive.org/. VENUE: http://www.playmakersrep.org/aboutus/paulgreen.aspx.
The Play: http://www.rupertholmes.com/theatre/drood.html (official website) and http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=4386 (Internet Broadway Database).