By Kathy Shwiff
The cast recording of the new Broadway revival of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” will include several endings, featuring songs by all possible murderers, on two CDs, members of the cast said during a discussion after the matinee Sunday.
The performers are making the recording today, their one day off this week. “Drood,” recently extended until March 10 at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54, runs Tuesday through Sunday.
The show, set in a Victorian music hall in 1895, is a play within a play based on Charles Dickens’s unfinished novel of the same name. Since Dickens died after writing half of the book, the show comes to an abrupt halt in the middle of the second act and the audience is asked to vote on the answers to several questions, including who killed Drood, who is the mysterious Detective Dick Datchery who appears in Act II, and which two characters are secret lovers.
Rupert Holmes, who wrote the book, music and lyrics for the show, has said there are more than 400 possible endings with the combination of questions posed to the audience.
The actors said the results of the voting are announced to them backstage, then the characters chosen proceed with their scenes to conclude the show. The vote totals also are posted in the theater lobby so the audience can see them on the way out.
The performers said all the possible candidates for the murderer have been chosen by the audience, although Robert Creighton, who plays Durdles, has been picked only once. They also said a popular combination for the lovers are the characters played by Broadway veteran Chita Rivera, age 79, and the youngest male among the choices, calling that “the ‘Harold and Maude’ ending,” in reference to the 1971 movie.
Some said performing the various endings was a bit nerve-wracking at the beginning of the run because each performer had little rehearsal on his or her ending.
The actors said they often are surprised by the audience’s choices.
Jessie Mueller, who has appeared in “On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever” among other Broadway shows, said actors usually know what is expected of them but with “Drood,” they don’t know how the show will end until minutes before.
Peter Benson, who plays Bazzard, said he read the novel and found Dickens’s detailed description of his character very helpful. And he said he learned about the Victorian style of acting from Jim Norton, who plays the narrator and had taken a course in that subject.
Gregg Edelman, who plays the Rev. Mr. Crisparkle, said he has concluded that Dickens would not have killed Drood if he had been able to complete the novel, saying he expects the character would have reappeared at the end of the story.
Some said Holmes, the show’s creator, has expressed the belief that Dickens was attempting to write a “Jekyll & Hyde” story that would have rendered Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” unnecessary if Dickens had finished “Drood.”