Drood: Review Roundup

Will Chase, Stephanie Block

The Roundabout Theater Company has received mixed reviews for its Broadway revival of the 1985 Tony-winning musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The 2012 creative team includes Rupert Holmes (book, lyrics, music, orchestrations), Scott Ellis (direction), Warren Carlyle (choreography), Paul Gemignani (music direction), Anna Louizos (sets), William Ivey Long (costumes), Brian Nason (lights), Tony Meola (sound), Sam Davis (dance arrangements), Paul Huntley (hair), Angelina Avallone (makeup).

The revival cast includes Stephanie J. Block (Edwin Drood, Alice Nutting), Will Chase (John Jasper, Clive Paget), Gregg Edelman (Rev. Crisparkle, Cedric Moncrieffe), Jim Norton (Chairman, William Cartwright), Chita Rivera (Princess Puffer, Angela Prysock), Andy Karl (Neville Landless, Victor Grinstead), Jessie Mueller (Helena Landless, Janet Conover), Betsy Wolfe (Rosa Bud, Deirdre Peregrine), Nicholas Barasch (Deputy, Nick Cricker), Peter Benson (Bazzard, Phillip Bax), and Robert Creighton (Durdles, Nick Cricker).

Charles Isherwood (N.Y. Times): The pleasure of fingering a killer is not the only one afforded by Scott Ellis’s exuberant production. … This handsome production offers a generous feast for the eyes, trimmed in holiday cheer for an added spritz of currency. Studio 54 has been persuasively refashioned into a facsimile of a 19th-century English music hall by the set designer Anna Louizos. … The luscious bustles and dapper tailcoats of the show’s ladies and gentlemen provide the veteran designer William Ivey Long a perfect palette for his ever-rewarding frolics in the sartorial past. And the evening’s performers … throw themselves into the winking spirit of the show.

David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter): Regardless of the accomplished cast and sparkling design and direction in Roundabout’s Broadway revival, nothing great can come of mediocre material. The show’s biggest selling point is the novelty of having the audience vote to decide the murderer’s identity at every performance. … This electoral element is undeniably a fun gimmick that livens up Act II while solving the quandary of Dickens’ incomplete story. However, the rest of the show, though frequently jolly, is just as often twee and boring. Louizos has built some very witty sets. … And along with lots of knees-up merriment, Warren Carlyle has choreographed a nightmarishly erotic dream ballet. … But all the affectionately antiquated whimsy never quite adds up to robust entertainment.

Steven Suskin (Variety): The Roundabout’s revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a diverting and amiable entertainment. Rupert Holmes’ unconventional musical … was an exuberant romp when Joe Papp’s Public Theater first produced it in 1985. The elements, and the highlights, remain the same, even if the ebullience at Studio 54 seems more manufactured than irrepressible in spots. … Director Scott Ellis, a Roundabout fixture since 1993, turns in his best musical outing in memory. He has imaginatively calibrated the 11 main comedic characters provided by Holmes, allowing them to ham things up this short of too much. He has also done a fine job extending the music-hall ambience across the board, coordinating his work with that of choreographer Warren Carlyle and the design team. … From the first downbeat, this Drood is indeed “off to the races,” albeit with some minor, muddy patches along the way.

Terry Teachout (Wall St. Journal): 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. … Corny? Sure – but that’s the point. Mr. Holmes spoofs the hoary clichés of the genre with purest affection, and the actors respond accordingly, waggling their eyebrows and twirling their mustaches as though the train (and yes, there’s a train) were headed straight for the nearest young damsel in distress. Mr. Ellis keeps his actors on the gallop, and they give every sign of having the time of their lives.

Linda Winer (Newsday): This is a novelty item, tricked-up with cutesy tangents as a play-within-a-play at a provincial English music hall. Everyone in director Scott Ellis’ wonderful-looking production works very hard at jollying up the audience at the start, rallying a sing-a-long and, ultimately, conducting the voting. Then, the murderer confesses in song. The show does have some jaunty, quasi-operetta music with beautiful harmonic blends and a ravishing cast. … The elaborate painted flats by Anna Louizos appear designed to stay in the theater for a long time, while William Ivey Long’s costumes are crazy-good with brocades and bustles. Warren Carlyle’s choreography includes drug-induced hallucinations with charming chorines. … Considering Dickens’ storytelling genius, the real mystery is why this isn’t fun.

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