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The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Brits have really got a thing for Victoriana right now with shows like Sweeney Todd finding a new renaissance in the West End. Could it have something to do with Charles Dickens' bi-centenary falling this year?

In any case, Aria Entertainment at the Landor Theatre is happily following this trend with their latest outing.

Premiered in New York in 1985, Rupert Holmes' clever musical version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood simultaneously sends up working class British music hall melodrama while reinforcing how fun it must have been.

It's effectively a murder mystery as done by the music hall maestros and mistresses, narrated and guided along by the admirably deadpan, white-bearded Chairman William Cartwright (Denis Delahunt).

Daniel Robinson is in superb voice as the music hall man playing the creepy Jekyll and Hyde-style Choirmaster who lusts over Edwin Drood's betrothed, the lovely Rosa Budd (Victoria Farley).

Drood himself is rather flatly played by Natalie Day as performer Miss Alice Nutting, but as he goes missing anyway you won't have to worry too much with such variety on offer from the others - take David Francis, master of the exaggerated stare as Rosa's potential amour, or Richard Stirling's nervy, anxious to please vicar.

Thrown into the mix is Corrie's Wendi Peters, a sucker punch of sauce as buxom performer Miss Angela Prystock, who plays Cockney opium seller Princess Puffer, revelling in bawdy numbers like "The Wages of Sin" and "The Garden Path to Hell".

There's masses of madcap energy fizzing about the theatre, in no small part thanks to director Matthew Gould's knowing eye for comedy and spirited musical direction from James Cleeve.

The second half kicks off with the audience gamely singing along with the music sheet that was (terrifyingly for some) handed out when we first came in - which says everything you need to know about how captivating this show is.

-Vicky Ellis


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