Monday, November 12, 2012

Johnson County Community College "Mystery of Edwin Drood" review by Combo

Who killed Edwin Drood? 
Rating: 5

The Mystery of Edwin Drood 
JCCC, Department of Theatre

Who killed Edwin Drood? Fans of Charles Dickens have debated the topic for years, but at Johnson County Community College’s Polsky Theatre, the mystery has been solved…at least for one night.

The JCCC production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”, directed by Chris McCoy, ran Friday through Sunday, November 9-11 and continues November 16-18. The high- energy, artfully staged production of Charles Dickens’ final work takes the audience on a journey to a music hall in Victorian England while placing the spotlight on some of the brightest young talent in the Kansas City area.

Winner of five Tony awards, including Best Musical, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” follows the cast members of the Theatre Royale Music Hall Company as they take on the task of performing Dickens’ unfinished novel of the same name. The whodunit story turns Dickens’ bleak novel into a fast-paced, musical melodrama in which everyone on stage is shown as suspect. Eventually, as Act II winds to a close, the audience is given the task of selecting the guilty cast member, and the story’s ending varies from performance to performance depending upon this final tally.

Cast members of the JCCC production draw the audience into their story: welcoming them as they enter the theatre, then involving them in English-accented conversation prior to opening curtain. When the lights dim, the Chairman, played by Timothy Noble, begins his dual role of managing the antics of the cast onstage while shepherding the audience through the events of the evening. Noble, an adjunct professor at the college and veteran on-stage actor, delivers a masterful performance setting the tone and engaging the audience through expert comedic timing.

The Chairman introduces the story of Drood’s fate, which seems to center around a theme of secret love. John Jasper is a choirmaster who is in love with Rosa Bud, a woman betrothed to Jasper’s nephew, Edwin Drood. Jasper is the presumed villain. However, Neville Landless, a hot-tempered newcomer to the community, also fancies Bud, raising suspicion as to an alternate killer. Through the twists and turns of the plot, other characters are also placed on the list of suspects: Puffer, the fallen lady who runs an opium den, and Helena, Neville’s sister, among them.

The part of Drood is played by a woman in keeping with the traditions of the play’s time period. Rachel Adcock plays the part of the male impersonator in this production. Adcock aptly adopts a boyish swagger for her portrayal of Drood, displaying distinct characteristics for each of the other two roles she plays in the show. Her acting and vocal versatility shines throughout, but is strongest in a scene with Jasper, played by Graham Wells, as they bond about being “Two Kinsmen”, in a comic bit late in the show, and in her final number musing over “ The Writing on the Wall.”

Adcock is not the only bright spot, though. Other characters add their sparkle to the show revealing an ensemble cast that’s deep with talent. Wells as Jasper blends voices with Rosa Bud, played by MB Hurst, for a lyrical reprise of “Moonfall”. Princess Puffer, played by BreAnna Wilson, beguiles the audiences while explaining the “Wages of Sin”. Neville and Helena Landless, played by Nathan D. Short and Sarah Robinson, add bits of intrigue and comic relief. Buzzard, played by Teddy Trice, charms the audience when he grabs the spotlight in “Never the Luck”.

Overall, the entire ensemble maintains high energy throughout the fast-paced show, and displays expertise in conveying the lyrics of solo and group songs, many of quick require high-speed articulation. Close attention to staging, particularly in the choreography of the ensemble numbers, keeps the pace engaging and entertaining.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” continues performances in JCCC’s Polsky Theatre on Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. Performances will be held November 17 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and the show concludes its run with a 2:00 p.m. performance on November 18. Admission is free; first come, first seated. No reservations are required.

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