The Mystery of Edwin Drood September 8-24, 7:30 p.m., $16. Super Summer Theatre, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, 702-579-7529.
How much fun can one person have, before it stops being fun?
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a droll musical spun out of the beginnings of Charles Dickens’ eponymous, unfinished novel. It’s presented as a “play within a play,” with actors playing Victorian-era performers putting on a musical edition of the novel. This conceit gives the actors permission to break the fourth wall continuously, make jokes to the audience and even get the audience involved in choosing the end of the show. Yes, that’s right, there are more than 100 endings to the show, depending on how the audience votes—and unfortunately, after a while, it feels like you’re seeing them all.
Which is not to say the show isn’t funny—there are plenty of great gags, improvisations and moments of audience participation, and some of the characters are a joy. Glenn Heath, as the chairman of the theater company and the mayor of the play within a play, is an adroit master of ceremonies and quick with a quip. Amanda Collins, as Miss Deirdre Peregrine/Rose Bud, has a lovely voice (if a little thin against the orchestra in her higher registers). As Drood, Melissa Riezler (she also plays Miss Alice Nutting, London’s premiere male impersonator) had a clear voice and good presence—but despite being the title character, did not have a whole lot to do. The performers who came off the best were those who had moments to shine in the framing device—London Mace and Aaron Barry as a father and son duo, Drew Yonemori as a waiter who longs for the stage—but others just faded into the background.
After a while, the whimsy becomes forced. The play has more starts and stops than traffic on the Strip, and no matter how well its actors perform they’re hamstrung by the byzantine voting process at the end of the show—which drags everything to a halt multiple times, just when the lunacy should be reaching its heights.
The show looks a treat, with inventive, stylized sets from Maureen Freedman. Kehler Welland’s Victorian costumes charmed with earthy Victorian tones, metallic highlights and blazing pops of color. And under the guidance of Toby McEvoy, the show’s orchestra sounds great. One of the benefits of Super Summer Theatre’s successful fundraising drive was the ability to buy the equipment necessary to use live musicians, and they’re put to good use here, adding energy and verve to the show. The same could not be said of Ashley Oblad’s choreography, which felt a little bland.
Despite its humor and the hard work of the performers, in the end the show still feels as long and cumbersome as a Victorian novel.