Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

One of the most well-known and intriguing factors of The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the fact that the audience gets to choose the identity of the killer. But it's not the only thing you should know if you're contemplating going. It's also a melodrama, something I hadn't known to expect, and a musical, which I did know about beforehand. So expect musical numbers, corny jokes, meta humor and a lot more audience-actor interaction than is required simply to get your votes for the ending.

The Boise Little Theater production's greatest flaw is that many times the actors and singers simply couldn't be heard over the recorded accompaniment. One of the most glaring examples is the duet at the beginning of Act II by Kristina Woodard, who played Edwin Drood and Dick Datchery, and Lauren Haber-Mannella, who played Princess Puffer. I could make out maybe three phrases in the entire song. These two can obviously project just fine -- I could hear them both quite distinctly in earlier and later numbers with softer accompanying music. But the music levels needed to be fixed. The song at the beginning of Act II was hardly the only instance of this, and it sometimes made me wonder if I was losing some meaning or missing some plot points.

The rest of the musical was a little hit and miss, which I find is often the case with melodrama -- but everything's supposed to be played over the top, so how do you judge it? And with musicals, it's hard enough to find a triple threat (acting, singing and dancing) without throwing British accents into the mix. Kudos to the actors for giving it their best efforts to do all four, but you could see where each person excelled and was maybe a little bit weak. Ana Boyd, who played Rosa Bud, had a gorgeous singing voice and excellent facial expressions, but didn't seem to have as much fun with her character as some of the other actors. John Myers had a very entertaining persona for his characters and great delivery on the super-fast song "Both Sides of the Coin," but he did let his accent slip. Mike Givens had a pretty good accent and a delightfully over-the-top character, and sang well enough -- but not to the point I think women would suddenly start flocking to him, as happens in his solo, "Never the Luck." I could go down the line like this, but I'd rather not. The actors all did a fine job -- they just all had their particular strengths and weaknesses, as you might expect in a musical. But Drood is one of those plays where the cast is so large it seems better to take it as a whole. Overall, it was a nice ensemble. The actors support each other well, and the sum is greater than the parts. (You think that's faint praise, because it's always the case? Think again. Compare Drood to God's Ear, one of the shows I reviewed last week. I actually think the sum was less than the parts in that show; they had so much to work with, and it was squandered.)

The set and the special effects were fantastic. John Jasper's (Cary White's) dream sequence was marvelously surreal, and the train at the beginning of Act II is just awesome.

I hope BLT can set the music levels a little better for its final weekend of Drood. As for my recommendation, I would say if you like melodrama, definitely see this one (and maybe try to pick a different murderer than Rosa Bud and write a comment about the ending you saw -- we'll compare notes!). If you're not really into melodrama, you might consider skipping it, but you may still want to go just for the sheer novelty of choosing your own ending.


Zach Hagadone said...

Why thanks Lora V., I'm glad I know where your blog is now -- I'm going to have to read through it when I'm not at work (it's a pretty slow Friday over here). We should plan for another whiskey sometime soon.

Hope all is well.

Zach Hagadone said...

Why thanks Lora V., I'm glad I know where your blog is now. I'm going to have to read through it when I'm not at work (slow Friday around here). Let's plan for another round of whiskeys sometime.

Hope all is well.

Lora V. said...

Sounds good, Zach. I'm going to try to go to Gernika today, but it's my brother's birthday and I have a Halloween party, so I'm not too sure if I'll make it.