Spring 2019: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Rupert Holmes
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a jaunty musical comedy mystery like no other. Performed by the hilarious cast of the Victorian Music Hall Royale, this show is based on Charles Dickens’s final tale - the novel he died before he could finish. In order to finish the plot and solve the mystery, this quirky cast of characters lets the audience decide how the story will end. Unlike most Dickens stories, this show is lighthearted and fun, with rip-roaring dance numbers, beautiful ballads, and a variety of intriguing suspects. There is a different detective, murderer, and pair of lovers each time, so every performance is a one-of-a-kind experience for all involved!
Alice Nutting as Edwin Drood
Clive Paget as John Jasper
William Cartwright as the Chairman
Deirdre Peregrine as Rosa Bud
Janet Conover as Helena Landless
Victor Grinstead as Neville Landless
Cedric Moncrieffe as Reverend Crisparkle
Angela Prysock as Princess Puffer
Philip Bax as Bazzard
Nicole Cricker as Durdles
Nick Cricker, Jr. as Deputy
Isabel Yearsley as Wendy
Violet Balfour as Beatrice
James Throttle as the Stage Manager
Sarah Cook as the Constable
Anna Grace Chang
Flute / Piccolo
Piano / Keyboards
Assistant Technical Directors
Head Lighting Designers
Head Hair and Makeup
Assistant Hair and Makeup
Hair / Makeup
Maame Sarpong Duah
Assistant Business Manager
If you are at all familiar with Charles Dickens's final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, it is my duty to inform you that the production you are about to take part in is not that. While our production is undoubtedly based on the unfinished novel, the beauty of this show is that --unlike Charles Dickens-- it is very much alive.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood breathes life back into a story that death cut short by passing the baton of authorship to the audience. Tonight, you will decide what the story will be, not just by voting on several key plot points, but by participating in this moment with us. We urge you to boo the villain, cheer for your favorites, and leave you inhibitions at the door.
Many critics believe that Charles Dickens meant for John Jasper to be the murderer, but this show contradicts that by offering up multiple candidates for your consideration. In fact, we highly discourage you from selecting John Jasper as the murderer. I believe that limiting this tale to what Charles Dickens intended is a fool's errand--not only is it impossible to know for certain what he would have ultimately written, it is a disservice to the story itself to limit it to a single ending.
This story has taken on a life of its own over time. The solution of The Mystery of Edwin Drood has been the subject of speculation for over a century, and although many authors have offered their version of the resolution, what is so captivating about this story is the potential it holds. There isn't a definitive ending, only possibilities, so it is never over, never done, never dead. Every time this musical is performed, responsibility for the story is passed on to those alive to enjoy it. To me, this ability to immortalize stories is the magic of theatre.
If you happen to be reading this before the show starts, I invite you to take a moment to look around. All around you are hard-working people with whom I have had the honor of bringing this production to life. While I doubt anything can do my fellow FYPers justice, this show is a reflection of them. It's not only a reflection of their hard work, but also of the community First Year Players has built and sustained since its founding. The Victorian Music Hall was a place where people of varying class or status could go for entertainment and escape. In short, it was where people would go to find their place. Tonight in the Music Hall Royale I hope you will get a taste of what it's like to be a member of the FYP community--what it means to Find Your Place-- as we create this story together.
Stories belong not just to those who write them, but to those who tell them and to those who hear them. We couldn't be happier sharing the creation of this story with you.
- Madeleine Goggin
The mission of First Year Players is to welcome first year and first year transfer students into our theatre loving community. This semester, FYP is proud to present The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a comedic musical in which the cast, crew and orchestra pit breath life into Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel, turning it into a living testament to how stories change based on who tells it and who hears it. Indeed, in this ever-changing production, the audience is invited to play a role. You will be welcomed by the kooky cast of the Music Hall Royale and encouraged to cheer, shout, and interact with the cast, crew, and orchestra pit. You even get to choose how Drood’s story ends, making each performance a new and unforgettable adventure.
In many ways, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is reflective of FYP’s community. The basic plot of our organization is the same each semester. We maintain our traditions of welcoming our new cast and pit during Roll Night, going to Bodos every Monday morning, and singing the Good Old Song after every performance. Although these traditions remain constant, the people that make them so memorable change. Each semester, we have a new cast, orchestra pit, technical crew, and artistic and production staffs. We make new friends, say goodbye to our graduating fourth years, and revel in the new memories we make. Just as this show only has four performances, we as UVA students only have four years to tell our story.
I am so thankful to be a part of First Year Players. It has been an honor to work with such talented, passionate, and hard working individuals. FYP brings together people from all corners of the University. Together, we turn our vision of student run theatre into a reality. To my FYP Family – thank you for playing a part in my favorite story. To you, the audience – I hope you get a glimpse into why FYP means more than just First Year Players. To me, and to many others, it means Find Your Place. We hope you can find your place here with us tonight and that you enjoy the show!
- Tess Driscoll
A NOTE REGARDING THE LANDLESS TWINS
The way the Landless twins are usually portrayed in The Mystery of Edwin Drood is as such: the Landless twins are written to be from Ceylon, but the actors in the Music Hall Royale suffer from a lack of education and exist within an imperialist and nationalist society, so in their ignorance they are unable or unwilling to represent these characters as if they are actually from Ceylon and in their confusion opt instead to portray their culture as an amalgam of a variety of Eastern, mostly Asian cultures. In our production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, however, the actors at the Music Hall Royale have confused Ceylon with Malta, and in their Victorian ignorance give their best guess as to what people from Malta look and sound like. One of the main reasons we have decided to make this change is because what we want these characters to emphasize the issues facing immigrants and those affected by colonization. The history of the Maltese Islands was forged by colonization, starting with Phoenician colonization and ending with Malta’s move to become a republic. During the era when this show is set, Malta was under British control.
Another main reason we decided to move the perceived country of origin is because, while we don’t want to eliminate the Dickensian social commentary that surrounds Helena and Neville’s situation or the critique of Victorian society that Rupert Holmes intended in the original portrayal of these characters, we do not want to be disrespectful or offensive. It is important to recognize that a key factor in the issues facing immigrants and people of colonized cultures is lost when we shy away from the racial content of this play. However, while the traditional productions of the show are attempting to ridicule racist ideology, they do so at the expense of repeating it. That is a price we are unwilling to pay.
We know that First Year Players have a long way to go when it comes to diversity. The University of Virginia’s issues with diversity are no excuse for the faults of our organization. FYP strives to be a welcoming place for all of our members, but we recognize that we can and should always be doing more to make sure that we are a space where all members of the University community can tell their story and feel accepted, represented, and respected.
- Madeleine Goggin