This revival is the best taste of good old-fashioned musical comedy fun so far this season! Or more accurately, good old musical hall fun, since Rupert Holmes, the musical’s author and composer, has set the Dickens whodunit in the context of a Victorian British musical hall. There, a raucous troupe of variety performers mounts a staging of the unfinished novel. Each performance ends differently, depending on what the audience decides.
I had a thoroughly good time, rarely thinking this could have been written or directed in a different way. And whenever I did, I decided it would be quibbling with a show that succeeds remarkably well on the modest terms it sets. For example, there’s a patter song that’s almost incomprehensible; however, the lyrics aren’t the point of the song, the sheer spectacle of speed is the point, so who cares!
Director Scott Ellis makes fine use of an irrepressibly energetic and committed company, headed by the incandescent Chita Rivera and Jim Norton. Gregg Edelman seems to be having a blast playing the dotty Rev. Crisparkle, Will Chase seems totally at home as the moustache-twirling Jasper, and Stephanie J. Block positively glows playing the “pants role” of the doomed Drood.
Drood is intended to be silly fun, and nobody in the creative team or cast spends any time pretending otherwise. Set designer Anita Louizos, for one, has created a lushly inviting facsimile of a late 19th Century British music hall, which lends the proceedings warm support. Likewise, costume designer William Ivey Long has convincingly captured the luxury of Victorian costuming. The musical Christmas Story oversells its good cheer, this Drood doesn’t have to, it actually is that entertaining.
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