College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

UM Theater Presents ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’

Caroline Lyell and Nathan  during a dress rehearsal. PHOTO BY: ASHTON DAWES/The Daily Mississippian

Caroline Lyell and Nathan during a dress rehearsal. PHOTO BY: ASHTON DAWES/The Daily Mississippian

Nov 13 2014  |  by Ashton Dawes
Courtesy of The Daily Mississippian

Stepping into Fulton Chapel to watch Ole Miss Theatre’s production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is like taking a step back into the 19th century Great Britain. The the chapel has been redecorated for the purpose of transporting the audience away from campus and into the world of the theatre troupe attempting to put a musical based on Charles Dickens’s last novel.

The musical, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” is based on the novel “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” by Charles Dickens. Of course, the actual mystery comes from the fact that Dickens died before he could finish the novel, so no one knows the ending.

That is largest trick of this production: not even the actors know the ending.

Director Amanda Wansa Morgan, assistant professor of performance at The University of Mississippi, said there are over 400 possible endings, and the audience gets to decide.

“There are three things the audience gets to decide on every night, and there are six to eight options within those options,” Morgan said.

The audience, after watching the theatre struggle to produce what they perceive to be a dramatic play but is really a melodramatic musical, will decide on who killed Edwin Drood, who is wearing the disguise of Detective Datchery and which two characters will become lovers at the conclusion of the show.

“The voting process will be conducted by some actors up front,” Morgan said. “There will be others actors sent to different sections of the audience to tally up the votes on chalkboards. The votes are tallied backstage while the actors continue performing, and then they will know within a couple minutes notice who gets to perform their confession.”

Although the story of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” follows the misadventures of a whole slew of characters, the musical is more about “the experience of watching a group of actors try to put on a play that has no ending with a story that has a lot of flaws.”

“There are a lot of things that can go wrong,” Morgan said.

She said that along with scenic designer, Dex Edwards, she designed what they call “bits” or the what-could-go-wrongs.

“There’s a lot for the actors to play with,” Morgan said. “I think the audience will be constantly entertained.”

Featuring a ten member orchestra and 21 member cast, the performance is a spectacle very different from what Ole Miss Theatre has shown before.

“You decide the ending,” Morgan said. “So, come and enjoy watching a bunch of actors struggle through a melodramatic script with amazing music, a beautiful, intricate set and an ending that is based on your choosing.”

The audience members can choose to be active participants or to sit back and enjoy the show, Morgan added.

As the ending of the show is chosen by the audience, Caroline Lyell, the actress playing the part of Miss Deirdre Peregrine and Rosa said that she always hopes to be chosen as the murderer. All the characters hope to be chosen as the murderer.

“You get to sing your song and have your shining moment,” Lyell said, revealing the actors’ intent behind wanting to be selected for the role of murderer.

“This show is different from anything I’ve ever done,” Lyell added. “It has allowed me to grow vocally, and I love everyone in this cast.”

Even the tech crew is excited about the production.

“It’s a fun show, and it’s funny,” Elena Ontiveros, a member of the crew and sophomore theatre major, said about the show. “The characters are ridiculous, and it always ends differently. You can’t be bored watching it.”

Lyell encourages everyone to come, throwing out at least one attribute for everybody.

“If you like Charles Dickens, come. If you like theatre, come. If you like laughing, come. If you like being around people, just come see it,” Ontiveros said. “It’s going to be great.”

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” plays Nov. 13-15 at 7:30 p.m. in Fulton Chapel and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 16. Tickets can be purchased at the Ole Miss Box Office in the union or at the door as long as seats are available.