By Charlene Adams
Mystery and laughter come together for a Mys-terical night at The Empress Theatre in Magna with their production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
My husband and I ventured out to Magna to see The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the Empress Theatre. We weren’t sure what to expect since neither of us had seen Tony-award winning Drood before. Upon entering the theatre, we were delighted to see that the old, hard theatre seats have all been replaced by soft new ones with a bit more room to relax in. Once we were settled in our new, comfy seats we were suddenly surrounded by the ‘players’ of the Music Hall Royale (members of the cast.) Though a bit startling at first, we soon became engaged in the story and may have decided who our favorite characters were before the show even began.
This hysterical musical mystery by Rupert Holmes, which was a hit on Broadway, is roughly based on the unfinished novel of the same name written by Charles Dickens, who died before it was finished. In The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a troupe of melodramatic Victorian players presents their opening night performance of the now famous unfinished novel. As the story goes, Edwin Drood (Emily Roh)’s uncle, John Jasper (Ryan Zaugg), a choirmaster, is in love with his pupil and Drood’s fiancee Rosa Bud (Megan Smyth). She has also caught the eye of high-spirited, ill-tempered Neville Landless (Collin Bodily) who came from Ceylon with his twin sister Helena (Katelyn Johnson). When Drood is murdered, the killer must be found. At this point the Players put the vote to the audience, then the votes are counted, and the show is played out according to audience choice. It’s a different ending every night.
I found the direction by Kate Rufener to be clever and refreshingly fast -paced. I was pleased to see such a successful collaboration with the Music Director Heather Shelley and the Choreographer/Asst. Director Marissa Olsen. I was delighted by the simplicity of movement and how it complements the music in the number “A British Subject”. The incredibly fast-paced wording in “Both Sides of the Coin” doesn’t seem to stop the characters who sing it. Zaugg and Roh kept me right on the edge of my seat through the whole song. The musical chairs game underscoring the music of “No Good Can Come From Bad” is a clever visual of the story.
The ensemble of players and characters are so delightfully woven in and out of the scenes. Every person on the stage brings something new and interesting. I was enthralled by Eve Garcia’s physical acting as the Chairman/Mayor Sapsea. Johnson makes me wonder what she is up to as Helena—she came and talked to me in the beginning and I was hooked. She is demure, and her over-the-top demeanor is wonderful. Princess Puffer (Celeste Porter) commands the stage and my attention. She struts, her voice is strong and commanding. Very playful onstage. Smyth pulls out the stops with her over-the-top innocence. And Bodily definitely is worth a vote as the murderer. My husband got lost a little in the mayhem of the beginning but got caught up by intermission with the help of the ensemble players who filled in the details at the top of Act 2. All in all, we had a great time watching the players move in and out of their dual characters. I wouldn’t bring young children to this show (it’s definitely PG-13 for innuendo, and so forth) but I would definitely bring my adult friends.
The lights, music, costuming and technical aspects of the show move right along with the fast-paced action and never let you go until the last bow. It’s like the song says, “Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead”. And The Mystery of Edwin Drood at The Empress in Magna does just that. It keeps you laughing and wondering, who will the murderer be tonight?
The Empress Theatre presents The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Rupert Holmes
Empress Theatre, 9104 W 2700 S, Magna, UT 84044
Fridays and Saturdays October 6-21 7:30 PM, Matinee Saturdays 2:00 PM, Family Night Oct. 16 7:30 PM
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