Sunday, 21 August 2016

CD Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012 Broadway Cast Recording)

“I know there must be love that’s yet to be”


Fun and games to be had with this surprisingly effective piece of music hall pastiche. Rupert Holmes’ 1985 musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood is less of a Dickens adaptation that one might initially expect, opting instead to use the source material of Dickens’ unfinished novel as a springboard into something daftly enjoyable, a meta-theatrical murder mystery event with a play-within-a-play and multiple endings which are determined by audience vote. This recording is taken from the 2012 Broadway revival which was mounted by Roundabout Theatre Company.

Holmes’ songwriting thus draws from a raft of old-school influences in harking back to a classic age. There’s a healthy dose of Victoriana in the music hall and a measure of pantomimic broadness mixed in with the Broadway-heavy musical language and it is an enjoyable cast recording to listen to even if you’re not exactly sure what it going on! For completeness, we get the eight possible endings, each with their own song, and this is just one of the aspects that makes this a more full recording than the original – others include the new Act II opener ‘An English Music Hall’ and the revised version of ‘Ceylon’ incorporating ‘A British Subject’, both strong additions. 

And the recording is also blessed with a supremely talented ensemble cast, headed by the incomparable Chita Rivera whose Princess Puffer is a delight (‘The Wages of Sin’ her best number) and a dryly witty Jim Norton as The Chairman. I also enjoyed the performances of Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller as siblings Helena and Neville Landless, paving the way for their leading roles to come (in Groundhog Day and Beautiful/Waitress respectively). I opted not to see the last UK revival, at the Arts Theatre also in 2012 and on this evidence, I might have missed a trick there, so I’ll be sure to catch when it next hits a London stage.

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