Beavercreek Community Theatre delivers a zestful, warmly interactive and impressively sung production of Rupert Holmes’ tuneful, rarely staged 1986 Tony Award-winning musical “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” an audience-friendly show within a show circa 1892 adapted from the unfinished novel of the same name by Charles Dickens.
Crisply directed in a witty tongue in cheek manner by Chris Harmon, also responsible for an attractive set complete with footlights and theater box, this breezy, well cast “Drood” engages from the start as a throng of Victorian performers from The Music Hall Royale casually connects with the audience before launching into the titular tale as an assortment of colorful characters. The love triangle-driven plot centers on crazed choirmaster John Jasper (Jonathan Berry) who, in Phantom-esque fashion, pines for his self-effacing student Rosa Bud (Bethany Locklear), a beautifully demure soul engaged to his carefree nephew Edwin Drood (Amy Leigh). When Edwin inexplicably disappears on Christmas Day, it’s anyone guess as to what happened. Since Dickens was unable to provide closure, the enjoyment of determining the mystery is left entirely in the hands of the audience, a conceptual hallmark ensuring appealing unpredictability.
Despite the fact that a few punch lines in the libretto fall flat or feel forced, Holmes nonetheless interweaves the world of the Music Hall Royale and Dickensian London with great skill, guided with crowd-pleasing vitality by Dean Swann as Chairman William Cartwright/Mayor Thomas Sapsea. Swann, a memorable Dr. Scott in BCT’s “The Rocky Horror Show” who possesses a knack for improvisation, winningly accents his slightly kooky, deceptively calculated portrayal with a jolly Zach Galifianakis sensibility. The equally excellent Berry, effortlessly brooding and primarily known for plays, supplies his most vocally arresting musical theater performance to date. Near the outset, he absolutely solidifies his strikingly unhinged embodiment of Jasper with an intense yet humorous rendition of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad.” Locklear, an outstanding soprano who commands the stage with graceful gentility, is a true find. Her plaintive interpretation of the gorgeous “Moonfall” is absolutely stunning. At the same rate, “The Name of Love,” her duet with Berry aided by John Falkenbach’s fiery red lighting design, pulsates with an alluring seductiveness recalling “The Point of No Return” from “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Dangerous Game” from “Jekyll & Hyde.” Leigh, who doubles as Dick Datchery, particularly fills her titular portrayal with charm, but I wish the excitable sparks prevalent within her stirring rendition of “The Writing on the Wall,” which concludes the show, were consistent in her work throughout.
Additionally, as the seedy Princess Puffer, Pam McGinnis is a reliably earthy joy delivering “The Wages of Sin” and “The Garden Path to Hell.” Charles Larkowski (Rev. Mr. Crisparkle), Shawn Hooks (Neville Landless), Jim Lockwood (Durdles), Bryan Wilcox (Deputy) and Thomas Cole Schreier (Bazzard) are apt comedians. Lindsay Sherman (Helena Landless), Jenna Owens (Wendy) and Tara Nicole Murphy (Beatrice) join Locklear for the lovely “Moonfall Quartet.” Megan Vander Kolk, Michael J. Stockstill, Matt Owens, Nicole Dine, Jennifer Wilson and Jeremy D. King complete the very compatible cast, who are nicely costumed in Victorian garb by Josh Hollister and energetically executes Annette Looper’s commendable choreography.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which opened Friday, June 10, will continue through Sunday, June 19 at the Lofino Center, 3868 Dayton-Xenia Rd., Beavercreek. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Act One: 79 minutes; Act Two: 55 minutes. Tickets are $13 for adults and $11 for students, seniors and BCT members. For tickets or more information, call (937) 429-4737 or visit www.bctheatre.org