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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Weathervane murder mystery ‘pleasant’

10/11/2012 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Meg Hopp is shown as Princess Puffer in Weathervane Playhouse’s production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
Photo courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse
MERRIMAN VALLEY — Charles Dickens is considered by some critics to be the best novelist of the Victorian era. He died while working on “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” which is on stage at Weathervane Playhouse through Oct. 21.

In this novel, he wrote dozens of characters and interlaced them in a believable style.

Several writers have attempted to finish “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” At this time, the stage version of the novel has been written as a musical by Rupert Holmes.

This production at Weathervane has a cast of 22 people and one dog. Many of the human actors play as many as three characters. In the orchestra pit, Jennifer Korecki (conductor, keyboard) and other instrumentalists — Frank McGill (bass), Bill Sallak (percussion), Tabytha Walls (trumpet), John English (trumpet) and Wanda Sobieska (violin) — support the singers and provide interlude music.

Holmes remains faithful to Dickens’ novel until mid-song, when everything stops. This is the point at which Dickens died.

The Chairman (Patrick Dukeman) explains to the audience why the script stopped mid-song. He arranges for the audience to vote on which character murdered Edwin Drood (Amanda Davis). The cast has each audience member vote, and the play continues with a scene showing the guilty character. In the original Broadway production, Princess Puffer was played by Cleo Laine, an audience favorite because she had such a beautiful voice. So, she was often voted the murderer because the audience members thought she would get at least one more song to sing.

I voted that Rev. Crisparkle (Adam Vigneault) was the murderer because the minister is never the bad guy, and that turn of character would be amusing. However, I may have been the only person to vote for the parson.

Director and choreographer Jim Weaver did an excellent job with the large cast. Most of the members of the cast were on the stage most of the time. Weaver’s choreography is imaginative and appropriate for the setting and the cast.

Weaver gathered an excellent, well-balanced cast for this production. Dukeman was excellent. His presence in a cast seems to raise the bar and make every cast member better than he or she thought they could be. 

Davis also played Alice Nutting, a male impersonator. This type of impersonation was more frequently seen in the Victorian era than now. Davis made this role her own by defining how a woman plays a man. 

Meg Hopp made Princess Puffer a strong independent character. Hopp has a great singing voice that should be used more often in the local theaters.

Costume designer Jasen Smith and three volunteers built most of the costumes for the show. Keep in mind this is a large cast show, and some characters had more than one costume. Smith and friends did a spectacular job making the costumes historically accurate and bright and flashy, as is appropriate for a musical.

Scenic designer Alan Scott Ferrall and volunteers produced several winning backdrops of English scenes. However, when a train came down the stage, the audience gasped and almost cheered with approval.

This production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” does have a couple of flaws. Some of the British accents are so heavy it’s impossible to understand the lines. Second, when the cast marches up and down the aisles, they block the action on the stage.

However, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is a pleasant evening in the theater. For tickets, call 330-836-2626.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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