“You must plan a murder carefully,” states one of the suspects in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and while the novel itself may have started out being planned carefully, Charles Dickens inconveniently died while still writing Drood, so any careful planning of its ending on his part was lost. While other professional authors have conjectured about possible endings, this production of Edwin Drood, which began as a Tony Award-winning musical produced on Broadway in the 1980s, offers a choice, and gives its audience the chance not only to cheer or boo or hiss the villain, but also to play matchmaker for the two leads.
Y-NOT Student Productions cast the show with a mix of high school and college students who performed like seasoned professionals. This is the group’s third consecutive summer production. Previous years featured Into the Woods, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. This year, Droods weekend run benefited Hospice of Santa Barbara, continuing Y-NOT’s tradition of donating the fruits of their labor back to the community that came out to support them.
With Drood, the group reprises past success, continuing to create theatrical magic. The castmembers never missed a note or step in their portrayal of the fictional Music Hall Royale’s rendition of Drood. The evening zipped by with the lively musical numbers bracketed by theatrical interludes, as the setup was described by the Royale’s Chairman, and stand-in for the drunk fictional actor James Hitchens.
Zach Reino played his dual role expertly, setting the tone for constant comic quips amidst the melodrama. Andrea Matthews’s lyrical voice shone in all of Rose Bud’s moving musical solos and duets, and she pouted without compare when the applause fell short in selecting her as the murderer. Connor Fatch gave the quintessential thespian Pillip Bax as Bazzard sympathetic voice. Kelci Hahn gracefully filled the stage portraying male impersonator Alice Nutting’s role as Edwin Drood.
Since the ending changes each time, nothing will be given away by revealing that the mistress of the opium den, The Princess Puffer (excellently sung by Gabrielle Shulman), confessed to mistakenly doing in Drood. But, did Drood really die? That is the real question. Whatever the answer, the actors and musicians in Drood produced a delightful and entertaining evening of musical theater.