The Scotch Plains Fanwood Repertory theatre put together a creative and unique play this year: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Based off of Charles Dickens unfinished mystery novel, the play tells the story of a young man named Edwin Drood, who is surrounded by conflict, secret love and disguised despair. Where Dickens story ends, the producers of the play have allowed the audience to vote on the endings, making each showing unique and interactive. Members of the Fanscotian attended all four performances, here’s what they think:
Opening Night, Friday, March 11
For one who isn’t a theatre buff or play-lover, and to be brutally honest, really dislikes musicals in general, I can tell you for sure this play blew away all of my expectations. The actors were in character from the moment we stepped into the auditorium, answering questions as if they had simply become their roles (their accents were spot on, too). When the play started, the actors didn’t break contact with the audience either, constantly breaking the fourth wall by talking to the audience in between monologues and making snarky comments mid-song.
What surprised me the most was that the play was literally customized for the SPF audience. [WARNING: Spoilers ahead!] In the hallucination scene, in which Drood’s uncle, John Jasper, envisions himself murdering Drood, Sean and Nicholas Cheney (SPFHS seniors and twins) appear onstage together – Sean playing the real Jasper, and Nicholas his imaginary counterpart. It was a fantastic moment when it finally dawned on everyone that both brothers were playing the same role.
Finally, there was the ending. To say I was impressed with the actors ability to adapt to any scenario the audience voted on is an understatement. No-one flubbed a line or missed a step, and the cohesiveness across the actors and crew was commendable. Not to mention our couple of choice were the two actors who played brother and sister to one another, Neville Landless [Joshua Weiner] and Helena Landless [Erin Sheehy].
The Rep theatre deserves another round of applause for this one. Fantastic job!
THE ENDING VOTE:
Villain: Princess Puffer [Sara Miller]
Detective: Edwin Drood [Caroline Scobee]
Couple: Neville Landless [Joshua Weiner] and Helena Landless [Erin Sheehy]
Friday, March 18th (Penultimate Show)
I enjoy a good comedy, and Edwin Drood definitely delivered, and then some. The humor was spot on, with many characters spouting humorous self-referential lines, even during inopportune moments. The breaking of the fourth wall is a common theme in the production, as most major characters directly communicate with the audience to explain or establish their course of action.
Before I attended the play, I was a bit skeptical about the play’s “audience interaction” motif. However, it was done perfectly. Even before the show, the cast walked around off-stage and interacted with the audience, which I thought was clever and charming. Overall, I thought the interactive moments of the play were very clever, and unique for a high school play.
Attending Edwin Drood was definitely one of the most exciting moments of my senior year, and congratulations to the cast for such a spectacular performance.
The Final Verdict:
Villain: Durdles [Josh Axelrod]
Detective: Reverend Crisparkle [Ethan Graham]
Couple: Princess Puffer [Sara Miller] and Deputy [Ryan Abramowitz]
As a lover (but not so much an expert) of musicals, Edwin Drood lived up to all of my expectations. I had already seen the show once before, but the allure of seeing a different ending brought me back for the final night.
Along with the audience-chosen ending, I found the breaking of the fourth wall to be the most interesting. Seeing and hearing classmates speak to the audience in character, and really believing it, completed the experience for me. It was new, different, and highly entertaining.
Although the rest of the audience and I disagreed on who we thought killed Drood, I enjoyed discovering what could have possibly motivated reverend Crisparkle. I found Neville Landless’ accent extremely entertaining, so I had no objections towards seeing him as the detective. Princess Puffer was by far my favorite character, so having her paired up with Drood’s troubled and slightly creepy uncle, John Jasper, was not my first choice. Although, in retrospect, I think she probably could’ve whipped him into shape.
Even after performing the show for so long, the cast and crew of The Mystery of Edwin Drood managed to pull off one final night of hilarious entertainment and fantastic acting.
Vilain: Reverend Crisparkle [Ethan Graham]
Detective:Neville Landless [Josh Weiner]
Couple: Princess Puffer [Sara Miller] and John Jasper [Sean Cheney]
Sunday, March 13
Based on the success previous SPF Musicals found, I had high expectations going into the Mystery of Edwin Drood. However, the performance exceeded any and all expectations I had–the show was simply outstanding.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood was unlike any musical I have ever attended. Before the show officially started, the show had begun! The actors, in character, waltzed around the lit up auditorium, accents ringing, smiles shining and costumes impressing to explain the premise of the voting system.
The show within a show (show-ception!) is a confusing concept, however the cast did exceptionally well in portraying it. The acting was exceptional and the singing nearly brought tears to my eyes. The music–kudos to the pitt–reminded me of the Phantom of the Opera, my favorite musical of all time. John Jasper had a Phantom vibe about him, especially with his creepy obsession with Rosa Budd, who actually sang quite like Christine Daae. It was quite amazing, to say the least.
The ending, which went in my vote’s favor, was shocking and interesting, an ending I never expected.
Bravo, SPF Rep!
THE ENDING VOTE:
Villain: Rosa Bud
Detective: Philip Bax
Couple: Princess Puffer and Durdles