Last US musical in the Blackbox: ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’

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Last US musical in the Blackbox: ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’

Actors in the musical rehearse one of their songs for

Actors in the musical rehearse one of their songs for "The Mystery of Edward Drood." This is the last upper school musical in the Blackbox before construction begins next year.

Photo credit: Carly Feldman '17

Actors in the musical rehearse one of their songs for "The Mystery of Edward Drood." This is the last upper school musical in the Blackbox before construction begins next year.

Photo credit: Carly Feldman '17

Photo credit: Carly Feldman '17

Actors in the musical rehearse one of their songs for "The Mystery of Edward Drood." This is the last upper school musical in the Blackbox before construction begins next year.

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Twenty-seven Archer girls have been working hard to prepare for the last upper school musical in the Blackbox, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

Last year, Middle School Performing and Visual Arts, Arts Department Chair and Arts Teacher Reed Farley announced the musical for the 2016-2017 school year. Since the first day of school, students have rehearsed in the Blackbox Theatre after school and on Saturdays to prepare for the musical.

“This is our last show in the Blackbox before construction, and what I love most about the space is the intimacy that provides for our audience. I wanted to choose a piece that had that built into it, which is how I ended up with ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood.’ A completely audience interactive piece, one of the only Broadway shows that embraces the audience,” Farley said.

Farley is aided by assistant director Carly Feldman ’17, stage managers Sidney Shintani ’18 and Gemma Brand-Wolf ’18, and assistant stage managers Megan Escobar ’19 and Madison Tyler ’19.

“I really love it. I get to make more creative decisions for the show than I have for the past, when I’ve worked on other shows as stage managers,”Feldman said. “Especially this show, because it’s so crazy and complicated. It has been a lot of work, but really fun.”

Each cast member plays a character in a theatre troupe within the show, and a different character for the play the troupe is putting on.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” was originally written by Charles Dickens, though he died in the middle of writing it. Drood dies at the beginning of the play, but because Dickens never finished the ending, no one knows how the character dies.

“The whole show is like a ‘whodunnit’ at the point that Dickens didn’t write because he died. Back then, chapters were released right after he wrote them because they were in such high demand, ” Alex Sherman ’17, who plays titular character Edwin Drood, said. “The show literally stops in the middle of a song, it is a literal show stopper. From there, the audience votes on three things to determine the appropriate ending: murder, lovers and private investigator.”

Rupert Holmes finished the play for Dickens, and wrote all the possible endings.

During rehearsal, actors have to plan many different endings: nine possible murderers, five different detectives and 18 possible lovers.

“We have gone through all of the endings once, and that’s probably all we ever will. So there was one day when we sang through 40 songs all in a row. And that’s it,” Feldman said.

Farley is not nervous about all the endings, as he believes that that is the beauty of the musical: the spontaneity of it.

This year’s official promotional poster was designed by Elizabeth Zinman ’17.

“I trust that everyone will handle it [the ending] really well, and hopefully the audience will get really invested,” Sherman said.

“I’ve never been so surprised to see a cast list in my life. I’m really excited, it’s a huge honor and the experience has been really fun and equally challenging,” she said.

Another new aspect to this Archer production is the incorporation of accents.

“I think accent work is really fun. It’s also really challenging, but fun,” Sherman said. “In the past, we haven’t had the opportunity to have our acting being put to the test in this way because this show has a lot of songs and scenes, so there’s a lot of work group work, and you have to rely on your cast-mates.”

Farley chose this play because he wanted to do a comedy after last year’s heavy drama.

“I think it kind of is a testament of Archer’s theatre department, as we are kind of this troupe that makes the best of our surroundings and attack it in a creative and resourceful way,” Feldman said.

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