Over the years, creatives have managed to find material to adapt for the stage from all sorts of places: from folklore; religious texts; to real life scandals and the list goes on. But who would have guessed that Charles Dickens’s unfinished murder mystery novel could be adapted into a boisterous whodunnit musical comedy and that it would work so darn well?
Using the play-within-a-play format, the cast members of the Music Hall Royale stage a musical production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Set in nineteenth-century Cloisterham, England, Edwin Drood (a sensational Kate Gledhill) disappears on a stormy night and his body cannot be found. The gimmick is that the audience has the chance to vote and influence the ending of each performance.
Is the murderer Rosa Bud (a charming Jessie Davidson), the sweet ingenue who was betrothed to Edwin at a young age? Is it John Jasper (a fiendishly perverse Chris Foxwell), Edwin Drood’s uncle who lusts after Rosa Bud during their music lessons? Or could it be either Helena (an alluring Sara Rajeswaran) or Neville Landless (a candid Shilpan Patel) the twins who have escaped from Ceylon and are now under the care of the Reverend Crisparkle (a comedic Sam Sugarman)? The list of suspects continues.
It’s part pantomime and part classic musical with a luscious score by Rupert Holmes and with nods to the love triangle in Phantom of the Opera and also the melodrama in Jekyll and Hyde. Sedos’ production is superbly cast, the choreography by Tim Garrad is tight and the period costumes by Frederica Byron all have wonderful flair. Director Mark Siddal has taken care to draw the humour out of every moment with comedic potential and it’s great fun to relish in it all. A standout moment is the finale number ‘The Writing on the Wall’ performed brilliantly by Gledhill, who has such a fine singing voice that I could easily listen to all day.
I’d say it’s an apt show for an amateur theatre company as there are no small parts and every member of the strong ensemble cast has the chance to partake in the lunacy. Steering the ship is leading man Mark Smith who performs as the Chairman. It’s a challenging role as he maintains the overall pace and talks directly to the audience often explaining the show’s many moving parts and interweaving story arcs. The show could very easily fall apart without him but thankfully Smith excels in this part – oozing charm and undeniable stage presence.
In my eyes, Sedos is fast developing a reputation for staging shows which easily match the quality of many of the productions that the West End has to offer right now. With a phenomenal cast and perfectly executed musical numbers, it’s no mystery why I found this show so thoroughly entertaining.
Photo Credit: Stephen Russell
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is running at the Bridewell Theatre until 26 March 2022 at the time of writing.