Senior musical theater major Lauren Alaimo plays Music Hall Royale male impersonator Alice Nutting, who takes the role of Edwin Drood.
GENESEO, N.Y. -- Who killed Edwin Drood?
It's a conundrum since author Charles Dickens died before finishing his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but playwrights and theater companies have ventured to solve the case by staging the unfinished work using the unconventional idea of allowing the audience to decide which character is the murderer.
SUNY Geneseo stages Rupert Holmes' popular version of the musical comedy Nov. 17-20 at 8 p.m. in Brodie Hall's Alice Austin Theatre. Director and choreographer Melanie Blood, professor of theater, selected the production because of the range of roles for students and the great challenge of creating a piece so heavily dependent on the audience.
"The fictional Music Hall Royale provides a play within a play framework for the staging of Dickens' last work," says Blood. "Every night the audience of the music hall votes on the key mysteries Dickens left unsolved, making for a substantially different show at each performance."
Music Hall was an English style of variety show that used a lot of interaction with the audience, such as the audience joining in on the choruses. In the case of Drood, a comfortable relationship is established from the top of the show, encouraging participation that culminates in the audience solving Dickens' unfinished mystery.
The production's many leading roles offer student actors the challenge of creating double roles. Each student plays a Music Hall Royale performer who then takes a role in the Dickens story. The role of Edwin Drood is performed by the Music Hall male impersonator Alice Nutting, both created by Geneseo senior musical theatre major Lauren Alaimo. Suspects in Drood's murder include his intended bride, Rosa Bud, played by senior vocal performance major Kim Benkert, and his uncle and closest friend John Jasper (also a choirmaster and secret opium addict), played by junior vocal performance major Adam LaSalle. Also on the suspect list are the Rev. Septimus Crisparkle, played by junior theatre major Brian Clemente and his two charges recently arrived from Ceylon, the twins Helena and Neville Landless, played by sophomore musical theatre major Julia Masotti and junior vocal performance major Devon Borowski.
Rounding out the list of suspects are opium purveyor Princess Puffer, played by senior musical theatre major Rebecca Hoffman; the drunken stonemason Durdles, played by senior theatre major Jake Roa; and frustrated actor and author Phillip Bax (who plays the small role Bazzard but has greater aspirations) played by junior musical theatre major Nick Cotrupi.
Dean Davis conducts the primarily student orchestra. Davis joins the musical production team at SUNY Geneseo for the first time, bringing extensive experience from RIT and Rochester's School of the Arts. Alan Case is accompanying the production and assisting with vocal coaching. Faculty designers are Steve Stubblefield and Johnnie and Crystal Ferrell.
SUNY Geneseo School of the Arts co-produces Drood with the Musical Theatre Club, a Student Association group funded by mandatory student fees. Tickets are available in the MacVittie Student Union box office, (585) 245-5873, or online. After 4 p.m. on the day of performance, tickets will be available at the door for cash or check only. Prices are $8 for students, $9 for faculty/staff, and $10 for the general public.
As an added bonus, the Big Tree Inn on Main Street in Geneseo is offering a 10% discount of a guest's dinner entree by showing his or her ticket from the production from Nov. 17-20. Dinner reservations are recommended.
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