Musical (1985)

Musique: Ruppert Holmes
Paroles: Ruppert Holmes
Livret: Ruppert Holmes

Act I
At London's Music Hall Royale, preparations are underway for the premiere performance of the resident troupe's version of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." Members of the troupe (who venture out into the seats) explain to audience members the historical details of Dickens's untimely demise, as well as the role the audience will play in determining the outcome of the mystery. From various locations in the theater, the cast members perform the opening number, "There You Are." The Chairman, a kind of Master of Ceremonies, informs attendees that this is going to be an unusual production, and invites all to be as "vulgar and uncivilized as legally possible." With this announcement, the play-within-the-play gets underway.

The first Dickens character introduced is the choirmaster John Jasper, a "respectable" member of society who shares with the audience the fact that he actually suffers from inner torment ("A Man Could Go Quite Mad"). Next to be introduced is Jasper's nephew, Edwin Drood (whom the Chairman reveals is being played by the famous male impersonator, Miss Alice Nutting), who discusses his impending arranged marriage with Rosa Bud, as well as his plans to leave for Egypt after the wedding ("Two Kinsmen").

Drood's fiancee, Rosa Budd, is then introduced at the "Nun's House" (a ladies' seminary). It is her birthday, and Jasper, her music tutor, has composed a song for Rosa ("Moonfall") which he insists on hearing her sing. During the encore, two orphans from Ceylon, Neville and Helena Landless, enter with the Reverend Mr. Crisparkle. After Rosa faints from the lustful lyrics of Jasper's song, Helena comes to her aid ("Moonfall Quartet") while Neville displays an attraction to Rosa. Next to introduce herself is the Princess Puffer, the madame of an opium den ("The Wages of Sin"). We see that respectable Jasper is himself a customer of the den, and, as he dreams of Drood and Rosa, Puffer reacts when she hears Rosa's name.

Back in Cloisterham, the gravedigger Durdles and his Deputy enter to discuss a newly completed tomb for the wife of Mayor Thomas Sapsea. It is announced that the actor playing Sapsea is too drunk to perform, so the Chairman himself takes over the role.

The following day, Rev. Crisparkle introduces Edwin and the Landless twins. When Drood shares his plan to pave a desert highway with stones from the Egyptian pyramids, he offends his new rival Neville and his sister: the three then proceed to argue ("Ceylon"). When Jasper enters with Mayor Sapsea, he points out to the mayor that everything is not always what it seems, a statement the Chairman, confused by his dual roles, agrees with. ("Both Sides of the Coin").

Jasper sneaks around the cemetery, where he obtains a key to Mrs. Sapsea's tomb. Afterwards, Edwin and Rosa reveal that they both have strong misgivings about their upcoming nuptials ("Perfect Strangers"), and decide to break off their wedding plans, but not to tell anyone until after the Christmas holiday. At Jasper's home, the major players join together to celebrate Christmas dinner, but all is not jolly as the rivalries and dark motivations of all are revealed ("No Good Can Come From Bad"). Edwin and Neville head out to the river as the others depart, and Jasper offers his topcoat to Edwin.

The following day Edwin has disappeared, and Crisparkle's assistant Bazzard has found Jasper's coat torn and bloodied. Drood is presumed murdered, and Neville is the chief suspect. The Chairman stops the show to allow Philip Bax, the actor playing the small role of Bazzard, to briefly take the spotlight ("Never the Luck.") Though Neville is captured, he is soon released after his sister points out that Drood's body has never been found. Meanwhile, Jasper sinisterly declares his passions to Rosa, who angrily rebuffs him. Their heated confrontation ("The Name of Love") leads to an intense reprise of "Moonfall." The Chairman ends the first act by filling in the audience with the information given throughout the first act and telling them to think it over.

Act II
Six months later, Edwin Drood is still missing and Princess Puffer and a stranger, Dick Datchery, arrive to investigate the mystery of Edwin's disappearance ("Settling Up The Score"). At this moment, the Chairman returns with Deputy and Durdles to remind the audience to pay attention to the clues ("Off to the Races").

While looking for Jasper, Puffer meets Rosa Budd and, joined by the rest of the cast, tells her not to give up her ambitions ("Don't Quit While You're Ahead"). Abruptly, in the middle of the song, all stops: this is as far as Dickens got before he died. It is now time for the audience to decide how the story ends. First it must be determined whether Edwin is actually dead or not. It turns out that Alice Nutting, female impersonator, has been wearing the Datchery costume in order to fulfill her contract to appear in two acts of the play—but are Datchery and Drood one and the same? The cast votes unanimously that Drood is, indeed, dead. Alice angrily tells the cast that they were all jealous of her and that that is the only reason why she is being dismissed, and storms offstage and moments later out of the theater in a huff. After her exit, the Chairman reveals the truth: Alice was a pain, but now it remains to be determined who Datchery truly is. The audience votes for a new Datchery by applause (anyone who has already appeared in scenes with him is ruled out), and the actor chosen goes to make a costume change for the finale.

Next to be determined is the murderer. The Chairman runs down the list of possible murderers and their motives for the crime. The audience is asked to vote by "districts" for the killer, and while the votes are tallied a reprise of "Settling Up The Score" leads into the resolution of "The Mystery".

Puffer finds Rosa and reveals that, years before, she had been Rosa's nanny ("The Garden Path To Hell"). She continues with "Puffer's Revelation" and reveals the identity of Datchery (previously chosen by the audience.) The evening's Datchery (either Bazzard, Reverend Crisparkle, Helena, Neville, or Rosa) explains why he or she wants to find the killer ("Out On A Limerick") and promptly accuses Jasper of being the murderer. Jasper soon admits that he strangled his nephew while in a laudanum haze ("Jasper's Confession"). Durdles the gravedigger, however, disagrees; he witnessed the crime and knows who truly killed Edwin Drood. Depending on the audience's vote, the finger is pointed at Bazzard, Crisparkle, Helena, Neville, Puffer, Rosa, or Durdles himself. The murderer confesses, then sings a reprise of one of several numbers to admit his or her culpability. (If, albeit not likely, the audience chooses Jasper as the murderer, Durdles does not interrupt and a second confession is not performed.)

Still, a happy ending is needed, and the Chairman asks the audience to choose two lovers from among the remaining cast members. The two chosen members declare their love, and then reprise "Perfect Strangers". Just then, there comes a noise from the crypt, and a very-much-alive Edwin Drood appears, ready to tell all what really happened on the night of his disappearance ("The Writing On The Wall"). The mystery is solved, and the members of the company take their bows ("Don't Quit While You're Ahead" (reprise)).

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