CT Rep Theater Delightfully Solves "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"

Photo of Cast of THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD at CRT Storrs by Gerry Goodstein

CT Rep Theater Delightfully Solves “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) at the Jorgensen Theatre in Storrs Connecticut is mystifying Charles Dickens fans with Rupert Holmes’ Tony Award-winning musical, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Directed by Paul Mullins, this wacky upbeat show, with audience participation, will be onstage through March 10th.   

Charles Dickens never finished his last work and this innovative, interactive musical picks up where Dickens left off, with the audience supplying the ending. The show won three Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards when it originally premiered on Broadway.

Picture this: Victorian London, a bawdy crew of performers at The Music Hall Royale act out the tale as far as they can.  They sing, they dance, they tear down the fourth wall as they engage with the audience, telling the tale of Edwin Drood.  The action is interrupted by the hilarious MC of the story (brilliantly played for laughs by Kurt Zischke*) and the theater erupts into good humored chaos as the cast interacts with the patrons and the murderer is chosen.

Ebullient Emily Ferranti* makes her CRT debut in the role of Edwin Drood.  She most recently finished the Broadway National Tour in the original company of “An American in Paris” (Milo Davenport). With a gorgeous voice and stunning stage presence, Ms. Ferranti’s singing and speaking are enhanced by, in her favor, excellent sound engineering.

 Unfortunately, some of the technical sound equipment in this show is spotty, with several actors’ mics being inadequate. Brian Mittelstadt as John Jasper suffers from his microphone adjusted poorly, making much of his speaking muffled and unclear.  GraceAnn Brooks as Rosa Bud and Rebekah Santiago as Helena Landless have lovely voices, but the treble to project their songs needs to be adjusted.  In many of the songs, the orchestra, although excellently conducted by Alex Thompson, is so loud it tends to completely drown out the singers. With English accents being used by most of the actors, completely crystal sound needs to be worked out.

However, the sound balance during ensemble numbers blends orchestra and singers beautifully, and the marvelous voice of Kelly Lester* as the naughty Princess Puffer, is a treat to hear, especially in “The Wages of Sin” and “Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead.”

The comic-Cockney team of  Rob Barnes as Durdles and Matt Bader as his Deputy are a joy to watch as they cavort in non-threatening criminal behavior in scene after scene. Mauricio Miranda as the arch Ceylonese suspect Neville Landless has a fine voice in his song with Ms. Santiago and Ms. Ferranti, “Ceylon.”

Gorgeous costuming by Brittny Mahan and wonderfully executed scenic design by Alexander Woodard evoke the Victorian Era beautifully. Both costumes and scenery are uplifted by the spot-on lighting designed by Joey Morrissette. Ms. Santiago doubles in her capacity in this production as not only actor/singer but Choreographer – a role in which she excels.

Cheers go to the rest of the cast:  Nikolai Fernandez (Rev. Crisparkle), Sebastian Nagpal (Bazzard), Aaron Bantum (Music Hall Stage Manager),  Erin Cessna (Miss Florence Gill), Camille Fortin (Miss Gwendolyn Pynn), Sophia Ancona (Miss Sarah Cook), Alexandra Brokowski (Miss Violet Balfour), Kristen Wolfe (Miss Christina Lyon), Casey Wishna (Mr. Harry Sayle), Tyler Nowakowski (Mr. Montague Pruitt), Tristan Rewald (Mr. Nicholas Michael), Jack Dillon (Mr. Alan Eliot), and Angus MacLennan (Mr. Medford Moss).

Clearly, the best song in the show, the toe-tapping and often-reprised “Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead” will have you humming as you leave the theater. This is a good-time show, filled with jokes, pratfalls, lively dancing, joyful singing and lots of sit-back-and-relax fun.

Evening performances start at 7:30pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances start at 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Single tickets are available now. Single tickets range from $36 to $40. All student tickets are $10. Discounts are available to seniors. 

On Saturday March 9, the 2:00pm performance will be an American Sign LanguageInterpreted performance.  

A Post-show discussion with members of the cast and crew will follow the performance on Thursday, March 7th at 7:30pm. 

Please call the box office at (860) 486-2113 for tickets and additional information or visit www.crt.uconn.edu for specific show dates and times because performance schedules vary and are subject to change. (*Denotes member of Actors Equity Association).

By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle. www.criticsontheaisle.com, www.criticsontheaisle.org