The Musical Mystery of Edwin Drood Deepens in a New Broadway Staging

By Harry Haun
01 Nov 2012

Joe Papp

Papp was paid back with a Tony for Best Musical of 1986, and Holmes won two for book and score.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood premiered at Central Park's Delacorte Theater in '85 and went to Broadway that November mostly intact. Its curtain-raiser, "An English Music Hall," didn't make that run but Holmes said earlier this fall that he hopes to reinstate it in this revival at the top of Act Two.

"I liked it because it defined what an English music hall is, and it'll be helpful since we're transforming Studio 54 into the Music Hall Royale," he says. "We want you to feel, as soon as you walk in the doors, you're in that music hall. Also, I've updated a couple of the murderers' confessions, and some of the lovers' exchanges have changed as well.

"There are eight candidates for murderer, five candidates for the detective-in-disguise and 36 combinations of lovers. If you combine all the different components, all the different lines that everyone has to memorize, there are over 400 permutations of endings — some combinations of which I have never seen. That does not mean I sat down and wrote 400 endings, but there are 400 combinations of different characters being different things. Each actor has to be responsible for what he would do if voted a detective-in-disguise or a murderer or a lover. The women have to know what they will say to nine or ten potential lovers so that it all makes sense. To be a swing on this show is to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"It was complicated to work out. Working every day, it took me three years to write this musical. It was a joy to write it, but it took a lot of thinking and a lot of planning and a lot of diagrams — sorta schematic diagrams: 'If she is this, then they must exit there.' 'She would then have to say that.' 'This character would have to enter here.'"

Pehaps the Rubik's cube should have been called the Rupert's cube?

(This feature appears in the November 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)

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