By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

Stage Door Players is currently presenting “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” with book, music, and lyrics by Rupert Holmes, directed by Robert Egizio, running through Aug. 2.

The piece is based on an unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, who had started serial publication of the work in 1870, the year he died. The novel is obviously public domain by now; the wonder is that it took Broadway until 1985 to have some imaginative fun with it, and the show won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The show is built for fun; the setting is the stage of the Music Hall Royale, and “Edwin Drood” employs such British music hall traditions as audience participation, a little cross dressing, and a show within a show.

The fine cast seems to be having a great time, and their energy and good spirits are infectious.   I must say that July is turning into a peak period for Atlanta theatre; in fact, the whole summer is becoming what the fall season used to be, which of course is a boon for theatre lovers. If you’re summering in Maine, France, or Sri Lanka, you’re missing a lot.

John Jasper (Daniel Hilton) is the Jekyll and Hydish choirmaster whose nephew, Edwin Drood (Paige Mattox) is engaged to the lovely Rosa Bud (you know Dickins and his way with names!), played by Kelly Chapin Schmidt. Rosa is Jasper’s singing pupil and also the object of his obsession. She has also caught the eye of the dashing, exotic Neville Landless (Jordan Dell Harris), who is visiting from Ceylon with his twin sister Helena (Jessica De Maria).

Rosa (Ms. Schmidt) sings divinely, her pure soprano voice evidently enchanting virtually all (certainly the males) who hear her. This is a cast of excellent singers, by the way, with a gorgeous ensemble sound. The musical director is Nick Silvestri.

But, being Dickens, there are complications. It seems the wily Jasper also visits an opium den run by (who else?) Princess Puffer (Sarah Cave, another fine, powerful singer).

And then Edwin Drood disappears under mysterious circumstances. He may have been murdered—or has he? Where is the body? And who, pray tell, is the murderer?

Here is where the cast asks for help from the audience. We get to vote, not only on our choice of the murderer, but on how the play will end. It’s a clever, highly theatrical device; to have some real fun (and to avoid being a fuddy-duddy), you have to go along with it. This cast will charm you into it.

The plot, of course, is more complicated than I can reveal here; and I shan’t be a spoiler. I can, however, tell you that this cast is large, attractive, and talented. And in the intimate atmosphere of the Stage Door, they will seduce you, metaphorically speaking. Incidentally, all of them play more than one part!

Here they are, God bless them one and all (as another Dickens character once said): Charlie Bradshaw, Daniel Burns, Sam Costantino (watch this young actor—I think he’s going places), Al Dollar, Robert Lee Hindsman, Alexandra Karr, Nolan Martin, Stuart Schleuse, Allie Southwood, Bess Yunek, and those already named above.

The choreography is by Bubba Carr, whose seemingly effortless work is always welcome on any stage. Mr. Egizio’s direction is fluid and unobtrusive and infused with wit.

Unless you don’t care for the theatricality and artifice of the British music hall style, you should have a great time. The show has been consistently selling out.

For tickets and information, visit stagedoorplayers.net.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.