"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" at The Bijou Theatre

Chris Peterson

I love a good "whodunnit", especially when I'll never know "whodunnit".  In the strange case of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the audience will be guessing who the culprit actual is long after the show is over. This is because no one will ever know how the mystery is solved. The musical is based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel. He died in 1870 before he could write the ending, revealing the mysterious disappearance of young Mr. Drood and who was responsible. 

This is where the cast of the production at the Bijou Theatre has their fun. With high energy, good laughs and a jovial spirit, this production makes for a very fun evening indeed. 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood tells the story of young Edwin Drood, an Englishman whose sudden disappearance throws the fictional townspeople of Cloisterham into a panic. Suspicions arise about who is responsible for Drood’s vanishing, with fingers pointing every which way, including the dashing but villainous John Jasper, Drood's fiancee Rosa Bud, opium den proprietor Princess Puffer and mysterious siblings Helena and Neville Landless. As the investigation pushes forward, everyone who came into contact with Drood joins the lineup of the suspects.

Artistic Director Maggie Pangrazio has a knack for finding good talent and she doesn't disappoint here. One of the better all around ensembles I've seen this season, each person gave it their all, which is something I truly enjoy seeing. Better yet, each one for the most part nailed their respective characters. 

Tony Morello is maserfully suasive as John Jasper. A role that I feel is meant to be more of a red herring than anything, Mr. Morello nails the role to the tee. Sarah Giggar also delivers a strong and savvy performance as the mysterious title character. Meant to be played by a woman for reasons I won't spoil here, Ms. Giggar seems very comfortable in her own skin on stage, even when most of her face is covered in Act 2. 

Bringing his own brand of charisma is Bob Filipowich as the Chairman who narrates the action for the audience throughout. Ever the showman, Mr. Filipowich once again proves why is one of the strongest in the area in roles like these.

A nice surprise came from Jennifer Groves. Someone who I had no seen on stage before but I certainly hope won't be the last. Vocally spot on with acting chops to boot, Ms. Groves' portrayal of Rosa Bud was a highlight for me. 

Also turning in one of the better performances of the area season was Karen Hanley as Princess Puffer. A incredibly fun performance to watch, Ms. Hanley chewed the scenery every time she was on stage. Michael Mele also hit some very nice moments as the lowly Bazzard, who finally gets his limelight later on in the show. Rev. Crisparkle is an interesting and unassuming character and Kevin Pelkey gave him plenty of lively moments. 

Rounding out this talented group were  Tamara Danilowicz, Juan Ayala, Tony Meath, Christian Jordan,Tom Torpey, Betzabeth Castro, Jennifer Subtil, John Warakomski, Cynthia Rivera and Royce Labriola.

While the piece itself is a bit too wordy, it moves quite nicely and thanks in large part to Ms. Pangrazio's strongest direction job yet, the production's energy and staging makes for a quick 2 1/2 hours. After some ups and downs for live theatre at The Bijou, this production masterfully uses its space and setting in a way that makes it hard for me to believe that a show like this could be as much fun in a more traditional theatrical setting. 

The charm and energy was so contagious, there were only two factors that held the evening from being perfect. The first was the sound quality. There is an art to knowing how to mix music and mic levels properly and that skill was sorely missing during this performance. There were many times, much in Act 1, where the music over powered the actors so much so, that I couldn't hear what was bring said. Since writer Rupert Holmes carelessly places much of the exposition during his songs, much of that was missed.

Despite this, I highly recommend seeing one of the remaining performances of this lively production. 

The production runs thru Sunday Apr 19. For tickets and info visit thebijoutheatre.com 

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