Community Theatre Review: Gut busting murder mystery musical comedy!
Narberth Community Theatre’s production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a gut busting, murder mystery musical comedy that puts the audience members right into the action (literally)! You surely do not want to miss this!
Based on the Charles Dickens novel of the same name, The Mystery of Edwin Drood takes place in the small english town of Chesterton. It was adapted into a musical by Rupert Holmes and contains music, lyrics and a book by him. At the opening of Act 1, young Edwin Drood, portrayed by Megan Keiser, is about to set sail to England with his new fiance, Rosa Bud, portrayed by Marie Spidale. Both of which hope to travel to Egypt where they can continue their love story and escape from their current lives. The young lover’s plans, however, are greatly hindered when Edwin Drood is mysteriously murdered. “Who dunnit”? Which mysterious character is guilty of the murder? Well we cannot entirely be sure. Shortly after writing in Drood’s death, Charles Dickens put down his pen for the last time and later passed away leaving both an unfinished story, and an unfinished case.
“How to bring justice to young Drood’s death,” you might ask? Well there is only one way to decide… let the audience vote! In a rather unique turn of events, the audience members actually get to have a say in how the unfinished story ends! With a line up of multiple questionable and suspicious characters, the audience get to pick the case inspector, a set of lovers and even the character who murdered Edwin Drood himself!
Narberth Community Theatre conquered the difficult theatrical piece that is The Mystery of Edwin Drood with great ease! The production was produced by Liz Brennan and stage managed by Gabrielle Chiarelli. The production’s director, Barbara Sherman, did a great job staging the show in a way that it was both entertaining and easy to follow, something that can not be easy when a show contains several alternate endings. Sherman was also responsible for creating the production’s set design, prop design and beautiful period costume design. Her work on the show seamlessly transported audience members right into the lives of the characters and made each audience member feel like they were involved in the story from the playing of the overture to the final bow. The production would also not have been complete if it were not for Raquel García, who was not only responsible for conducting the incredibly talented 20+ membered orchestra, but was also responsible for the cast’s impeccable vocals. Supporting both Sherman and García in their storytelling was Choreographer, Tami Cohen Dimmerman. Dimmerman’s choreography, while minimal, was well spaced on Narberth Community Theatre’s smaller stage and easily executed by the cast with hardly any errors.
Upon entry into the theatre, audience members are immediately welcomed into the mysterious world of Edwin Drood. Prior to the show the cast members, who are playing actors and actress in Music Hall Royale’s production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, are freely roaming the theatre and are escorting patrons to their seats. I was escorted to my seat by the talented Rachel Pogolowitz who never once broke character and made the pre show experience very memorable and entertaining. While waiting for the show to start, other Music Hall Royale cast members wandered amongst the crowds and attempted to convince audience members to vote for them later on in the night, something that not only made me laugh, but actually made me question who I would later vote for before the production even started.
It is very hard for me to mention one or two stand out roles from the production because each and every performer did such an outstanding job in their roles. Rarely have I ever seen a community theatre production where a cast is able to stand so strong individually and even stronger as a whole. Each performer had such dedication when it came to their character and did not give up any moments in the spotlight.
Among the talented cast, however, I would like to highlight a few performances. A name that comes to mind is Michael Sherman. Sherman’s character not only acted as the story’s Chairman, but later jumped into the action and became a part of the show itself. Sherman’s ability to deliver his comedic lines while also clearly narrating the events on stage made the storyline highly enjoyable and easy to follow. Gabriella Grosso was also very entertaining to watch and had a lovely portrayal of Helena Landless, who evidently was voted as the inspector at the performance I attended. Grosso had a lovely voice and demanded attention in every scene she was apart of. Her impressive accent and sassy characterization of Helena was hilarious and greatly attributed to the story being told.
Linda Galati Hunt, who portrayed Princess Puffer, and Christopher Betzler, who portrayed the Reverend, both gave great performances and held the audience’s attention every time they were onstage. Both gave comedic performances that often left the audience chuckling even after they had left the stage.
Acting and dancing aside, the performers also brought beautiful vocals to the stage. The actress who portrayed Rosa Bud, Marie Spidale, had a beautiful soprano voice and wowed audiences with her renditions of “Moonfall” and with her duet of “Perfect Strangers” with Mr. Edwin Drood, Megan Keiser. Danny Seifert, who played John Jasper, had great vocal talents and gave very passionate performances with his versions of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” and “Jasper’s Confession”
The ensemble and cast members as a whole had a great impact on the story. They made every full cast number, such as “There You Are” and “Off To The Races”, very entertaining to watch and always left the audience with huge smiles on their faces. Although sometimes hard to hear over the orchestra due to microphone issues, the ensemble never missed a beat and made the show easy to follow. They also took the unique voting experience, one that can seem intimidating to a first time audience member, and made it so much fun you couldn’t help but participate!
With singing, dancing, killing and laughter, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is surely something you don’t want to miss! The Mystery of Edwin Drood runs weekends until November 18th at the Narberth Community Theatre in Philadelphia, PA. Catch it at the Narberth Community Theatre while you still can!