Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Drood' Musical Was Tough Task for Creator

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Drood' Musical Was Tough Task for Creator

Article excerpt

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood," which opens in a revival Tuesday night at Studio 54, may be unique in Broadway history.

The musical hit of the 1985-86 season, the show combines genres and presentation in an utterly distinctive way. And its path to fruition wasn't easy, said Rupert Holmes, the one-man team who wrote the show's book, music and lyrics.

"It was a struggle," he said. "And then, one day, all the key ideas seemed to come to me at once."

It started more than 35 years ago, when Holmes, a former Tenafly resident who now lives in New York's Putnam County, decided to combine his passions for music and mysteries.

He set out to write a musical version of Charles Dickens' last, unfinished novel, a whodunit whose murderer's identity went to the grave with the Victorian author.

The title character in "Drood," a young man, disappears, presumably having been killed.

Although Dickens didn't get to reveal the perpetrator -- he did suggest the identity to friends, although it's not known if he would have carried through with that individual -- he populated the completed part of the book with many suspects.

There was Drood's uncle, a choirmaster; Drood's former fiancee; a brother and sister from Ceylon and the mistress of an opium den, among others.

"The novel is very grim," Holmes said in a recent phone conversation. "And I was troubled by how bleak the musical was becoming. I finally set it aside." Holmes had already established himself as a pop singer-songwriter, and after performing in a cabaret, he was approached by Joseph Papp, the founder of the New York Shakespeare Festival.

"He asked me if I had any theater material," said Holmes, and that sent him back for another look at "Drood."

It suddenly came to him how he could present the mystery without the gloom.

"I thought it could be presented as a Victorian vaudeville. The show would be about a music-hall troupe of hammy actors putting on their version of 'Edwin Drood. …

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