2017 Manhasset High School Musical: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Emily Hahn

In Charles Dickens’ final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the real mystery does not rest on the words written by the great 19th century author, but in the text that remains absent. Dickens died in 1870 without completing the novel, and left his adoring fans to only speculate the ending of the murder mystery. Over the years, there have been numerous adaptations of the story on stage, film, and television. Arguably, the most significant version is the theatrical musical comedy by British-American composer, Rupert Holmes, which garnered the 1986 Tony Award for Best Musical. During a four performance run in November at Manhasset High School, the talented troop triumphantly tackled the ambitious and complex musical.


The musical employs a “show-within-a-show” format, where the cast members portray actors in a fictional music hall group, each playing a role from the Dickens’s novel. The troop is led by the “Chairman,” played brilliantly by Keely Broderick, delivering the witty quick-fire dialogue in a perfectly executed British accent. She controlled the action, bringing order to the complex dynamics between the myriad of peculiar characters, and laying out the narrative to the audience.


Rupert Holmes’ adaptation is considered to be the first Broadway musical with multiple endings. Loyal to Holmes’ production, the audience members at each of the Manhasset performances voted for the outcome of the unfinished novel. In preparation for the unpredictable decision by the audience, the cast and production staff took on the task of preparing for all the different scenarios. Hours of practice and rehearsals paid off handsomely, as the different endings for each of the four performances went off without a glitch, leaving all those in attendance amazed and thoroughly entertained.


Emily Cruz played the role of Edwin Drood, or more accurately, she took on the role of the actor in the fictional performance troop that played the role of Drood. As with the original Broadway production, the role requires a female performer to play the male lead, and Emily delivered a confident comical performance with precise delivery of dialogue and brilliant singing. With Drood “mysteriously” disappearing at the end of Act I, Emily returned in Act 2 to play the role of the private investigator, Dick Datchery, in a hilarious disguise, continuing her mastery of comedic delivery. Decker Peterson played the challenging role of John Jasper, Drood’s deranged uncle. Decker set the stage for a raucous evening with his energetic and tuneful delivery of “A Man Could Go Quite Mad” in the beginning of Act 1. His perfect timing and effortless interaction with the cast helped showcase his masterful command of both acting and singing. The beautiful ballad, “Moonfall,” was delivered by the dazzling soprano, Lauren Schwartz, playing the role of Rosa Bud. Her meticulous voice echoed gracefully throughout the auditorium. The complex plot included numerous other major roles delivered with perfection by a cast of highly talented Manhasset students guided by the music director, Mr. Mark Van Schenkhof, including Elizabeth Rutkovsky (Helena Landless), Philip Barsky (Neville Landless), Dan Miller (Crisparkle), Jacqueline Siffer (Princess Puffer), John Karagiannis (Durdles), Kimmie Brogan (Deputy) and Sebastian Macchio (Bazzard). Countless other performers graced the stage to bring the Broadway hit to life. With the flawless presentation, it was easy to forget the excellent production staff directed by Jai Nanda and led by Mr. Rob Fessler. Last but not least, the orchestra, conducted by Mr. Hector Minaya and staffed with students and several “guest” faculty members, made sure that all audience members left the auditorium humming the tuneful melodies. It was truly a triumphant production.