The students of Chamblee Charter High School took audiences back in time to Victorian England in their recent production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
The musical by Rupert Holmes is a nod not only to Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel by the same title, but also to the British pantomime and music hall tradition that was in its heyday shortly after Dickens’ death.
The music for this show is lovely, but also rather demanding. The students rose to the challenge, giving a fine performance.
The play within a play features the performers, chairman and stage manager of the Music Hall Royale in London, and begins with the performers mingling with the audience members, explaining about Dickens’ untimely demise before finishing his novel. The audience is informed they will be voting on the resolution of the play. The students embraced the campiness of this show, playing it to full advantage and providing everyone with a fun and entertaining evening.
Marc Laroussini played the role of Chairman William Cartwright, a sort of master of ceremonies of the Music Hall Royale. Laroussini was perfect for this role, chatting up the audience with ease. Caleb Wikle did a fine job as Mr. Clive Paget who portrays John Jasper, Edwin Drood’s uncle only a few years his senior.
The role of Edwin Drood was tackled by MaryConnor Thompson as Alice Nutting, the famous male impersonator of the day. Drood’s fiancee and Jasper’s pupil, portrayed by Deirdre Penregrine, was skillfully handled by Kaitlyn Jordan. Wikle, Thompson, and Jordan all had lovely voices and were equal to the challenges of Holmes’ music.
Jessica Walker and Caleb Craig are the twins from Ceylon, Helena and Neville Landless. Both of them embraced their roles as the outsiders. Joe Crow was hilarious as The Rev. Mr. Crisparkle, the local minister and protector of the Landless twins. Sophie Steele is the world-weary Princess Puffer. Steele’s vocal talents are showcased in the second act.
Gender-switching roles continued with Caroline Patterson playing Mayor Thomas Sapsea, a minor role we are told is for “comic relief,” and Natalie Uzee, who plays forlorn actor Philip Bax, who tackles the roles of the waiter and Bazzard and longs for a bigger part. Patterson and Uzee were both quite funny in their roles.
Rounding out the cast are Neil Young as James Throttle, the stage manager of the Music Hall Royale, Chaz Delgado as the alcoholic gravedigger, Durdles, Kameren Saulsberry as the deputy, Jennifer Wilson as Flo, Wallace Arnold as Horace and Aliyah Bowens, Victoria Corbett, Bria Lowe, Princeanna Price and Rhagan Williams as the citizens of Cloisterham.
Director Dr. Robert Glor and Assistant Director Anastasia Levie-Sprick did a great job in guiding the students through the challenges of this show. And Brandon Smith did an excellent job of musical direction. The show also featured the instrumental talents of Amanda Burns, Solina Jean-Louis, Maddy Clowse, Corin Rogers, Victoria Tuck, Stephen Woolfitt, Caitlin Cooper, Jarah Jane Dillon, and Josie Wall.
Everyone involved in this production is to be commended for tackling a show with 40 different combinations of endings, each one leading to numerous laughs as only an evening of vaudeville can.