The multi Tony and Drama Desk Award winning musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, sweeps its way onto the Malvern Theatre Company stage later this month (and Lilydale Theatre beyond that), promising a night of murderous hilarity.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel of the same name, and, while Dickens’ work exudes his trademark bleakness, the musical is a lighter shade and played for comedy.

Seasoned director Alan Burrows likes the exclusivity and intimacy of the musical. “The Mystery of Edwin Drood is not done very often and lends itself to being suitable for a small cast, in our case 14 and therefore ideally suited for the smaller stages of Malvern Theatre and Lilydale Athenaeum Theatre,” he says. “It is a challenge as it requires a versatile cast of various ages, all of whom need to sing well and cope with basic choreography. The style of the show also has great appeal in that it is a group of Music hall performers presenting “The Mystery Of Edwin Drood” and throughout the piece we are constantly moving from the Music Hall to the play, a great challenge for the actors.”

The musical also presents a really interesting audience participatory twist in the tail as it is the first Broadway musical with multiple endings, determined by audience vote.

Burrows explains: “There are three decisions the audience must make at each performance. Firstly who is playing the character Dick Datchery of which there are five possibilities. Then who is the Murderer of Edwin Drood, here we have eight possibilities and finally two lovers are chosen each performance where there are twenty-one possible combinations. Rehearsal have been great fun as we have rehearsed/improvised our way through all the possible scenarios. At every rehearsal to date we have tried to mix it up to give everyone a go at performing their Datchery Limerick, their murders’ confession or their love duet. ”

Burrows has had a very long relationship with musical theatre, tracing the genesis back to his childhood when, as a small boy, he would follow around ‘after my parents’ His participation now extends over forty five years and still counting.

“I have always loved the added dimension music and dance can give to both drama and comedy and the excitement a musical theatre performance can give to an audience. Over the years the challenge for me has been keeping abreast of technology that has now become such a part of modern theatre presentation, whether we are using projections, LED or moving lights all add wonderful possibilities and co-incidentally we are using all three in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

” When I ‘m asked about a favourite production it is difficult question to answer as shows become favourites for different reasons. Favourites can be shows that no-one else has done “1776” of “The Roar of the Greasepaint and the Smell of the Crowd”, spring to mind. On the other hand a real crowd favourite such as “The King and I” which I have done five times or an Australian non-professional premiere such as “Cabaret” or “Evita” and then there are productions which have been family affairs such as “Mame” where my wife Christine played the title role.”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood did win 5 Tony Awards in 1986 including Best Musical and has been successfully revived on Broadway in 2012, so the show has a wonderful pedigree. What, if any, pressures do these distinctions put on a creative team to ‘get it right.’

“Design has been critical and David Dare (set design) has again produced a set that looks magnificent on the smaller stage, but captures the essence of the old-time musical,” says Burrows. ” Shirley White our musical director as scaled the band down to four pieces, so as to fit them on the stage as part of the performance and Deryk Hartwick (lighting design) will light it in a way that I am confident will enhance the action throughout.”

The show is another shared venture between long time collaborators Malvern and Lilydale theatres. The arrangement is both cost and time effective but there are logistical concerns that Burrows and team are very quick to assess and address.

“The main logistics involved with a share production is have a cast able to do both seasons, some 30 performances in all,” Burrows explains. ” When I done this in the past the casts have loved the twin seasons as they all feel that they are able to more fully develop their characters. Design is also important as the two stages and theatres are different. Again David Dare our designer has provided a set that will easily transfer from Malvern to Lilydale. Lighting is also crucial and “transferable” design saves a great deal of time.”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a hilarious romp with a novel and fun gimmick that promises to keep audiences guessing till the last.

“Audiences will love the added dimension of their participation in the outcome of the story The Mystery of Edwin Drood , which will keep everyone guessing to the end,” says Burrows.” Musically if has a varied and interesting score with the haunting “Moonfall” a delight and the raucous “Off to the Races” the epitome of music hall fun.”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
August 21 – September 5
Ticket Bookings Phone: 1300 131 552