The Mystery of Edwin Drood @ Studio 54
There's no important message in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," no redeeming moral of the story, and no resolution to the mystery of who killed Edwin Drood, if in fact Edwin Drood has been killed at all. Charles Dickens died while writing it, so the book remains forever open. What a fucker! But the world wants endings. Rupert Holmes turned the story into a musical in the '80s, a live action game of "Clue" staged in an English music hall as a show within a show, which because it's Dickens includes a thousand characters with complicated names and myriad clandestine entanglements, and in the middle of the second act the narrative stops. Where Dickens died, the story ends, so the actors turn to the audience and everybody votes: whodunit is up to us, and once tagged the killer delivers a tailor-made confession (Holmes had to write seven different songs to account for each potential culprit).
The revival is playing at Studio 54: I've seen it twice, and Rosa Bud was guilty both times. I'll go at least once more so I can vote for Helena Landless. I'm dying to hear what that broad has to sing. It's loud and it's fun and bright and warm and cheery, there are wistful ballads and tongue-twisting duets, big group numbers with kicklines and once or twice a singalong. Boy do I go bananas for a late-19th-century barroom singalong. Not to mention Chita Rivera! When you got it, as they say, keep on selling it. (p.s. Chita Rivera sells opium.) Stephanie J. Block does triple duty as the cheeky Edwin Drood-cum-detective Dick Datchery as portrayed by male impersonator Alice Nutting (don't worry about it) in a role originated by none other than Ms. Betty Buckley. Will Chase is delicious as a drug-addicted choirmaster, and the ripe-for-anything Betsy Wolfe as the aforementioned Rosa Bud is the object of his slathering lust (spoiler alert: Will Chase is kind of a spitter). Jessie Mueller and Andy Karl play mysterious East Asian siblings (is there any other kind?) under several pounds of greasepaint, heavy accents, and knowing smiles, and Jim Norton keeps it all rolling as the show's emcee and chief purveyor of its rowdy, bawdy good humor.
The girl beside me last night was too cool for the whole affair, though, as if she'd made some arrangement with herself in advance to not be entertained. Every so often she would clap limply, her fingers brushing against each other without making a sound. There was zero meeting of the palms. That must be the kind of thing you have to practice in your spare time in front of a mirror, miming a reaction without registering an emotion, like learning to laugh without opening your mouth. What's the point? It seemed to take more of an effort than sitting perfectly still or actually applauding. Luckily I'm the world's most enthusiastic clapper, which in the past has made me some powerful enemies but seems like a big part of what I'm paying for in the price of the ticket—community, communion, common feeling, common joy—so I put my paws together for the both of us, with praise and glad tidings and good will toward all men.
See it, you lunkheads.