Local Theater: Unraveling the Drood mystery
Story by Chris Graham
Many Charles Dickens fans just assume that it was supposed to be John Jasper who would turn out to be the murderer at the end of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Everything seems to point back to Jasper, most notably his affections for Rosa Bud, Drood’s fiancee, though a small group of Dickensians will note for posterity that Bud had also caught the eye of Neville Landless, who in addition to having a thing for Bud also had it in for Drood.
Unfortunately for Dickens followers, and most unfortunately for Dickens, the author died before finishing his final novel, so we really don’t know what he had in mind for the resolution to this storyline. That hasn’t stopped theater companies from picking up where the writer left off.
“I’m not so sure excitement is the word. Maybe terror?” said Bob Wright, who is directing a Blue Ridge Community College production of Drood that will run beginning Thursday night and through the weekend at the BRCC Fine Arts Center.
The terror is more for the actors in this musical adaptation of Drood, which tells the Dickens story as a play-within-a-play. The focus is on a performance troupe that is putting on a production of Drood that has issues figuring out how to end the show, and deciding to let the audience weigh in with its thoughts.
That’s right. You get to pick the ending – from whodunit to who was involved with whom behind the scenes and more. “The cast is kind of hoping that the same ending is going to occur every night. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen,” said Wright, who has had his cast practice the various permutations of the ending. “Every time we rehearsed it we tried to pick a different person so that everybody would have the opportunity of rehearsing their particular ending. So we had a lot of rehearsals,” Wright said.
The cast includes a number of local theater favorites with extensive backgrounds in musical comedy – from Barbara Spilman Lawson to Brian Holsopple to Michael Vayvada – with appearances by Staunton author Matthew Warner and Waynesboro jazz and blues singer Llyn Walker thrown in for good measure.
Bringing the title character of Edwin Drood to life will be theater veteran Sandi Belcher, who actually portrays a Victorian Era actress named Alice Nutting, whose backstory is that she is a famous male impersonator in her time.
“When I’m playing the character, I’m attempting to act as though I am a male, but I’m trying to make sure that the audience doesn’t forget that I’m a female. So I don’t change my voice. It’s still a female voice. And definitely singing is in the sorprano range,” Belcher said.
WHAT: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
WHERE: Blue Ridge Community College Fine Arts Center, Weyers Cave
WHEN: Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.
TICKETS: Adults, $10; students, $5