When Charles Dickens died in 1870, he left behind an unfinished novel,
Clearly, the logical way to do justice to the great writer's final work is to make it a musical. With drag performers. And a choose-your-own-adventure ending. The result is the delightfully whimsical
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
is presenting at the Metro Theatre until March 3rd.
One of the things that Fighting Chance (and director Ryan Mooney) does so well is to really create a relationship between the show and the audience. Think back to
where the company (of which I was a part) was encouraged to make as much creepy eye contact with the audience as possible to increase the feeling of tension and discomfort in the crowd. Or
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum,
where Ryan's banter (as Pseudolus) with the audience was a highlight of every review. Or last summer's
where the Little Sisters of South Surrey were personally selling raffle tickets in the lobby during intermission. Fighting Chance shows are not for quiet, reserved theatre-goers who wish to consume theatre, rather than participate in it.
is a perfect vehicle to showcase this unique strength of Fighting Chance: a show-within-a-show, set in a bawdy Victorian music hall, I think in
FCP reaches new heights when it comes to creating an all-encompassing audience experience.
On Opening Night, we were greeted in the Metro lobby by the players, in costume, who ushered us into the theatre. The chorus girls were adorable in bloomers and corsets, yet to climb into their bustles and dresses, and ensemble performer Andrew Wade as the "stage manager" was suitably preoccupied and officious, clutching a clipboard. As we found our seats, we were greeted by other players, who toasted us, shouted up to those of us in the balcony, and generally created a sense of anticipation of what was to come when the Chairman (Jack Rigg) finally brought down his gavel and the show began.
Because this was a show-within-a-show, the performances were all completely, delightfully over the top. The lovely Sarah Wolfman-Robichaud, playing London's "foremost male impersonator Alice Nutting", starring in drag as Drood, bowed and threw kisses to her adoring public and played duelling divas with Jennifer Doan, as her romantic interest Rosa. Alex McMorran as actor Clive Paget, who played the villainous John Jasper within the Drood story, mugged and grimaced and over-acted to the point where the audience was laughing if he merely entered a scene. It was questionable who was more drunk, James Walker's actor Nick Cricker, or his Drood character, Durdles. Jennifer Doan, as ingenue Deirdre Peregrine/heroine Rosa Bud, posed prettily like a good dolly should, all the while singing in her beautifully soaring soprano voice. Judging by the cheers and applause, the audience's particular favourite was Linda Leong Sum as Cockney madam and opium den mistress, Princess Puffer. Chris Lam as aspiring leading man Philip Bax, who makes no bones about his desire to play a more important part than butler Bazzard, was absolutely my favourite - his sense of timing and physical comedy (the raising of one eyebrow had me in hysterics) was impeccable.
Alex McMorran. As Clive Paget. As John Jasper.
Particularly in Act 2,
becomes even more reliant on the audience, as we had to choose the murderer of Drood, who goes missing at the end of Act 1, the secret lovers, and the identity of the detective Datchery, who has mysteriously arrived in Act 2 to investigate Drood's disappearance. Our votes were counted through applause, cheering, hooting, hollering, wheedling - all the kinds of things you would expect in a music hall performance. Apparently there are 411 possible endings to this show - and so repeat attendance at performances in encouraged, as the show will be different each time! As a performer, I can't think of anything more nerve-wracking or exhilarating than not knowing whether I was going to have to perform a certain scene that night!
Jennifer Doan. As Deirdre Peregrine. As Rosa Bud.
The ensemble of
was particularly strong. They did a great job with Dawn Ewen's choreography and belting out the numbers under the direction of Vashti Fairbairn. Jessica Nicklin in particular made us all laugh as an over-eager chorus girl who was ready to sing "Off to the Races" at the drop of a hat. Cathy Wilmot did an amazing job with costumes and the sets by Keita Selina were some of the most professional looking of recent FCP productions.
The Line-Up: Who Will Be The Murderer?
Go and see
. Tickets are available at
*Full disclosure - I've performed in two previous FCP productions, Sweeney Todd (October 2010) and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum (October 2011) and volunteer regularly for the company. So you may feel I'm a little biased in saying that I loved this show (which I did). If anything, though, my review should be taken with even more weight, because dammit, I wish I was in this show, was prepared to go and hate it because I wasn't in it, and enjoyed it tremendously in spite of myself!