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Theatre / Drood

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Drood, originally entitled The Mystery of Edwin Drood, is a 1985 musical comedy with music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations by Rupert Holmes, based on the unfinished novel of the same name by Charles Dickens. Because the source material was a murder mystery with an unfinished ending, the musical determines the ending each night by Audience Participation. The show uses the framing device of being a Show Within a Show, performed each night by supposed members of a Victorian music hall—which were popular around the time of Dickens' death—and is hosted by the Chairman, William Cartwright, who narrates the proceedings, plays one of the minor roles himself, and conducts the polling process by which the identity the titular character's murderer is decided. In addition, the audience also votes on which character turns out to be the mysterious detective Dick Datchery, and which two characters fall (sometimes suddenly) in love for the finale.


The original production won five Tony awards, and featured George Rose as the Chairman, Howard McGillin as the music hall's leading man and portrayer of John Jasper, and Betty Buckley as the guest artist and "male impersonator" playing Edwin Drood.

This musical provides examples of:

  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Played with, as the musical in question is technically adapting an unfinished work.
  • Ascended Extra: Quite a few examples both within the show, in real life, and a combination of both.
    • The main draw of the show is getting to vote on your favorites to give them a little more material and relevance, whether it's making them sing a love song near the end, sing a solo where they unveil themselves as the detective and point to the murder suspect, or the big one, getting their own Villain Song where they admit to killing Edwin Drood.
    • While Durdles and especially Crisparkle are still principle roles who do get solos within larger songs, neither gets a full fledged song of their own outside of voting, where both are given the opportunity one can have a full on solo as the murderer, a duet and romantic scene as one of the lovers, or in Crisparkle's case, another solo as Dick Datchery.
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    • An In-Universe example that always occurs each show. Bazzard's actor is depressed being stuck in a small, thankless role, but is given the chance by the Chairman to perform his own solo number. He can take this even further, being eligible for all of the three voting roles later, increasing the size of his roel even more. Also worth noting, Bazzard often fares well in the voting, with Rupert Holmes acknowledging that he's the big favorite for the Datchery vote.
    • The Deputy isn't much more than a highlighted ensemble member in the overall show, but he's given the chance to be voted as a lover at the end, being the only non principle actor whose eligible for any kind of voting.
    • A real life version would be Durdles, who was not a murder suspect in the original Broadway production but would go on to be made one starting with the first national tour, and has remained a potential murderer ever since.
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    • In-Universe, while Chairman William Cartwright already had plenty to do as the show's master of ceremonies, he was not originally intended to play an actual character within the story, only doing so when Mayor Sapsea's actor has become too indisposed to do so.
  • Attention Whore: Bazzard is defined by his desire to play a larger part. If elected as Datchery, this plays directly into his motivation for cracking the case, as he'll admit that his actions were both to clear Neville's name and to boost his personal vanity. But that's nothing compared to his murder confession, where Bazzard talks of his desire to be a legend in his time, and how he tried to pass himself off as an ace detective by killing Drood and then solving the crime himself.
  • Audience Participation: Encouraged at multiple points, and vital to selecting which of the Multiple Endings the cast goes with.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: If Rosa Bud, Crisparkle, or Bazzard gets elected murderer.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Aside from the Hot-Blooded Neville, this applies to every murderer. Jasper counts as this since, even though he's Obviously Evil, most of the characters trust him and believe he's a good man, with only a few seeing him for what he is, in addition to the entire audience.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: This show being what it is, the fourth wall is pretty much a pile of dust and plaster all throughout the libretto, but most of the songs keep to themselves if they're purely Dickens-focused (as opposed to Music Hall Royale crowd-pleasers). Not so Durdles' confession, in which he comes right out and confronts the audience with their far-fetched choice: "But I'm the candidate you rowdy lot have chose / And so my motives now I fear I must disclose..."
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Is actually one of the possible pairings, since Neville and Helena Landless are both available in the pool of choices for Lovers unless one of them was voted the murderer. The actors traditionally keep as far apart as possible and give the audience a lecture about how sick they are. However, it's become a favorite gag in certain productions that the two can only maintain this moral high ground until they actually kiss, at which point they drop all compunction and go at it with gusto. Bear in mind that there are two levels of characters here, the Drood characters and the Victorian music-hall troupe portraying them. The twins' Victorian actors, Victor Grinstead (Neville) and Janet Conover (Helena) obviously aren't related, so the inevitable sloppy makeouts can be attributed to Victor and Janet dropping character like a hot potato.
  • The Butler Did It: If Bazzard is elected murderer. Really he's Crisparkle's assistant (though his Victorian actor Philip Bax also has a walk-on role as the waiter during "No Good Can Come From Bad"), but the trope is still in full effect: Bazzard's appeal as a candidate for selection is that his role is so minor, he's easy to overlook.
  • Butt-Monkey: Bazzard, or rather his actor, is defined by their inability to get a large part in any play, to the point where he admits to playing the title role in Much Ado About Nothing.
  • Cast as a Mask: The same actress plays both Drood and the initial Dick Datchery, because, in-universe, she's contracted to appear in both acts. However, the "actors" always vote that Drood is in fact really dead, so they can't actually be the same person by the end of the act.
  • Chekhov's Gun / Red Herring: "Here, Ned, take my CAPED COAT." Could be an example of either, because half of the murderers did it because they mistook Drood for Jasper.
  • Classically Trained Extra: Pretty much Bazzard's whole shtick. He adores the theatre and hopelessly wants to play a larger role even though he only gets small parts. He gets his wish by performing "Never the Luck", and can go on to score an additional solo thanks to the voting.
  • Clear My Name: Neville's motivation if he's Datchery.
  • Crosscast Role: In a reference to Victorian theater, a "male impersonator" plays Drood.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: The cast raises and discusses the possibility that Drood is, for whatever reason, Not Quite Dead. However, it is always the question the "actors" themselves get to vote on, and they always vote that he's dead because his actress is an obnoxious prima-donna, and she storms out in a huff. Out-of-universe, this is a way to keep the Multiple Endings at manageable levels.
  • Dark Reprise: The solo "Moonfall" is a damn creepy song as is, but the whole thing goes even darker and over-the-top in the reprise during "The Name of Love".
    • Each murderer's confession also reprises at least one earlier number. Granted, some of the reprised songs ("A Man Could Go Quite Mad", "A British Subject", "No Good Can Come From Bad") were dark enough to begin with, but you can't beat the Lyrical Dissonance of hearing Bazzard confess to strangling Drood as a reprise of the dreamy waltzing melody of his signature "Never the Luck", or hearing Durdles jauntily recount how he bludgeoned Drood to death in a drunken frenzy while the orchestra kicks up one more refrain of that Music Hall Royale favorite, "Off to the Races".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Neville and Helena face much racism from the English people, though they also have an entire song calling it out. The In-Universe musical performance takes place around the early 1900's, so the characters aren't written quite tastefully, with Helena lampshading how her accent is "geographically implacable" and their In-Universe actors usually being white people in brownface.
  • Detective Mole: If Bazzard is elected murderer. His opening lines sum it up perfectly: "I saw the chance to be a legend in my time / For all in town thought Neville might do violent crime / To solve a myst'ry would pluck me from off my shelf / So I ensured the crime by killing Drood myself!"
  • Disney Death: Drood turns out to be okay regardless of murderer, but this trope really gets zigzagged with Durdles' confession. First Durdles witnesses Jasper dragging Drood's body into the crypt. A distraught Durdles pours himself a few cups in Drood's memory. Then Drood, who had only been struck unconscious by Jasper, miraculously emerges from the crypt. The very drunk and terrified Durdles is convinced this is a ghost... and so immediately sets about killing him again! Only in this ending does Drood get "murdered" and "resurrected" twice over.
    • This confession's lyrics has the actor playing Durdles admit that it's stupid but he's trying to improvise as he didn't expect to be the murderer.
  • Double Entendre: Moonfall is filled to the brim with this; Rosa is essentially singing about having sex with John Jasper (which is why she is reluctant to sing it.)
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: The Murderer's Confession, aside from the fairly irrelevant lovers' duet is the second to last and wraps up the plot giving the audience the moment they've waited for, and whichever cast member has been voted the chance to show off one last time.
  • Ensemble Cast: There are certainly some roles that are noticeably larger than others, but each actor in the principle cast is always given a moment to shine no matter the vote, and the audience's decisions will boost the size of the at least three roles (sometimes the detective may be voted again as a lover afterwards).
  • Everyone Has Standards: Durdles reveals towards the end that knows who actually killed Drood after Jasper has confessed. This implies for whatever reason he didn't want to reveal what he saw, but seeing the man who didn't actually kill Drood about to be dragged off for it causes his conscience to take over. This is especially pronounced when Durdles himself is the killer.
  • Eviler Than Thou: The sympathy level of each murderer varies, but there's still two examples, one of which trumps the other.
    • With the exception of the below mentioned Bazzard, John Jasper will stand out as being more vile than the actual murderer. Rosa only kills Drood because she mistook him for Jasper, and considering Jasper's treatment of her, it's easy to see why she'd try it. Meanwhile, Puffer makes the same mistake, and in her case, the crime is only occurs because she was trying to protect Rosa from John. Similar to that, Helena kills Drood in an attempt to stop Neville from doing so and facing the consequences. Then, Neville and Crisparkle kill Drood due to being jealous over Drood being with their love, or in the case of the latter, who he believes to be his love. This motivation is actually the same as Jasper's, but in Neville's case, he Drood was quite a dick to him, even using racist insults, while in the case of Jasper, Drood was an incredibly loving nephew and nothing but kind to him. As for Crisparkle, while still an insane and jealous killer like Jasper, he at least is willing to stand up for the accused Neville, even though letting the police arrest him would've increased Crisparkle's of getting away with the crime. Meanwhile, Jasper was all too willing to let Neville who either knew or just presumed to be innocent get arrested. Then there's Durdles, who stands out as being the least evil of all the murderers. Not only did respectfully drink a toast to the seemingly dead Drood when he came across the body, but the only reason that he even kills Edwin is because when Drood starts to come to, Durdles mistakes him for a spirit and kills him, not realizing the "ghost" he was fighting off was actually living.
    • As mentioned above though, as bad as Jasper is, he's actually better than Bazzard if the latter is selected. While Jasper commits quite a few sins, he's also mentally ill, suffering from an evil Split Personality, and his motivation is to kill for love. The love isn't reciprocated and his treatment of Rosa is certainly villainous, but it's better than Bazzard's reason. If elected murderer, Bazzard's motivation is simply a desire for fame and acclaim, explicitly wanting to be a legend of his time. Noticing the rising tension between Ned and Neville, Bazzard realizes he can take advantage of this to create a scenario where passes himself off as a heroic ace detective. Putting this plan into action Bazzard kills Drood so that he can later "solve the mystery" by getting the innocent Neville convicted. Additionally making all this worse than Jasper is that Bazzard doesn't suffer from any kind of mental illness or romantic turmoil, he does this just because he's a major Attention Whore.
  • Framing Device: The audience isn't just watching a production of the play, Drood, but also the actors in a Victorian music hall performing the production. This leads to some interesting moments when the "actors" break character.
  • Gainax Ending: The final musical number of the night is always the same, and it completely contradicts the established events of the play and the Framing Device. But, it is still happy and upbeat, so there's that.
  • Gender Bender: Drood, a male character, is traditionally played by a female actor. Just because. They do not try to hide it at all.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: The two characters who get voted to sing the duet often haven't talked to one another the whole show.
  • "I Am" Song:
    • "A Man Could Go Quite Mad" for Jasper
    • "The Wages of Sin" for Princess Puffer
    • "Two Kinsmen" and "Ceylon"/"A British Subject" count as We Are Songs for Jasper & Drood and Neville & Helena, respectively. You could also say "Ceylon" is simultaneously Drood's "I Want" Song.
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: In the revised version of the show, this is Helena's rather feeble excuse during her confession ("I meant no violence that Christmas morn / I meant to silence this Edwin's scorn"; "I meant to gag him / But I did snag him / So I did drag him off to hell"). But the rest of the song makes it amply clear she feels no remorse for his death at all and might very well have had lethal intent all along, no matter what she says otherwise.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Not a direct motive for any murderer (only Rosa is romantically interested in Drood), but in the original version of Crisparkle's confession, he claims that he killed Rosa's mother as well in the past: "Newlywed was she / Thus dead to me / I tossed her out to sea..." Crisparkle might just be crazy (note he only says "I think I killed another"), but if this is true, Crisparkle is the only would-be murderer who actually finishes the show with a kill count (since Drood always comes back). Beware the Nice Ones indeed.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Some of Durdles' jokes—and it's even funnier that way.
  • The Ingenue: Rosa is the female one, Drood is the male one. Hey, but wait a second...
  • Innocent Soprano: Rosa is an otherwise straightforward ingenue soprano, being an innocent young woman smitten with Drood. However, the show is Meta Fiction about actors performing an unfinished story, and the audience can choose the murderer — and Rosa is one of the options. If she is selected, she subverts the trope by faking her Purity Personified personality to conceal her intention to murder John Jasper.
  • Insult Backfire: "You're next to an idiot!" "Why so I am! Pleased to meet you!"
  • Interactive Narrator: The Chairman, as part of the Show Within a Show conceit.
  • Knight Templar Twin Sister: Helena, per both her confessions in either version of the show. Regardless of whether she intended to kill Jasper ("Thought you I'd idly wait while Neville you'd torment?") or Drood ("I'd kill another, to save my brother / I did it well..."), her main goal is to protect her brother and she will most certainly stuff a few bodies in the fridge if that's what it takes.
  • Large Ham: Nick Cricker, the actor playing Durdles, although any of the actors can be played this way.
    • John Jasper, especially when he's close to mad.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Performed once we reach the point in the story where "Charles Dickens laid down his pen forever."
  • Love Triangle:
    • Jasper/Rosa/Drood
    • Neville/Rosa/Drood
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "No Good Can Come From Bad", a fugue which introduces a separate musical motif for each of the singers. In the original version, each of those motifs is subsequently reprised in the appropriate character's murder confession. In the eventual licensed version, only Rosa's confession remains intact.
  • Meaningful Name: How appropriate that the show-within-a-show's fishes out of water are named Landless.
  • Motive Rant: Naturally, each of the confessions is a musical version of this. (Though it's comically avoided by Durdles, who himself recognizes how baffling it would be for him to have any prior motive to murder Drood, and outright breaks the fourth wall to declare that he's only a murderer because the audience voted him so.)
  • Multiple Endings: Selected by audience participation. Then subverted: after an entire series of choices made by the audience, the final ending is always the same.
  • Murder by Mistake: The original version of the show goes overboard with this: of the six suspects besides Jasper, four of them turn out to have meant to kill Jasper instead, and only took out Drood by mistake because he was wearing Jasper's coat and, look, it was dark and storming, okay? These are Rosa, Puffer, Crisparkle, and Helena. (If you listen to the original recording, get ready to hear a lot of "I meant to murder you!") The revised version of the show finds new motives for Crisparkle and Helena (and adds Durdles), leaving just Rosa and Puffer holding up this trope on their own; a healthier ratio.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Predictably, this is the motivation revealed by Jasper and Neville in their confessions, since both are infatuated with Rosa and despise her fiancee Drood. Less predictably, it's also Crisparkle's motivation in the revised version of the show, in a more indirect way: the woman he truly loves is Rosa's deceased mother, but the insane cleric can no longer meaningfully distinguish between Rosa and her mother and so develops a murderous grudge against Drood.
  • Not Quite Dead: Discussed by the cast, but dismissed as a possibility. Not for any reasons of undermining drama or fidelity to the information in the text, mind, but because Drood's actress is an insufferable prima donna, and they want to take her down a peg by voting her dead with the one decision they get to make. Then, in the Gainax Ending, Drood turns out to be fine.
  • Odd Couple: Almost all of the possible pairings.
  • Patter Song: "Both Sides of the Coin"
  • Postmodernism: The play is a play-within-a-play with a Framing Device involving a period music hall whose cast strangely mirrors their characters in many ways, features frequent digressions and discussions about the source material and its occasional faults and flaws as a story, and puts most of the outcome in the hands of the audience. Then, it finally concludes with a bizarre but happy ending that flies in the face of the events of both the play and the play-within-a-play.
  • Red Herring: Two examples that can be played straight or Subverted
    • John Jasper acts as a Villain Protagonist theoughout the piece, being by far the most dastardly of the murder suspects, having a clear motive for why he would want Drood eliminated, and having many lines that just scream "I'm the killer!". Jasper is almost always a regular example of a red herring since the show itself strongly suggests against picking such an obvious suspect, a decision that's made quite clear near the end when Jasper always gets to confess to the murder even when he's not picked.
    • Neville Landless is a less exaggerated version of this trope, but still applies, as he has a highly confrontational relationship with Drood, has an easily noticeable motive (a similar one to Jasper'st that), and becomes the primary suspect In-Universe before the voting. Unlike Jasper though, the show doesn't try to dissuade the audience from casting Neville votes, and he can also be taken out of the running for the murder vote if he's selected as Dick Datchery's alter ego.
    • In general, all the characters get their share of moments where they get to ham it up and strongly suggest that they're the murderer, playing to the crowd in the hope that they get voted. Depending on the actor, several of the characters can seem quite sinister, even if they aren't ultimately selected.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: If Neville is voted as the murderer, then this applies to Jasper accusing Neville of Drood's murder earlier in the show. The reason it's this trope is because no matter what, Jasper believes himself to be Drood's killer, and is just trying to frame Neville, not actually believing him to be the culprit.
  • Show Within a Show: The show is a performance of musical version of the novel by the players of a Victorian music hall, and many of their conventions are employed in the story.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: When the show starts, the cast doesn't know how it will end.
  • Split Personality: John Jasper appears to have two personalities: Drood's loyal loving uncle, and a sex-crazed, opium-addicted maniac who lusts after Drood's fiancee.
  • Stalker with a Crush: John Jasper is sexually obsessed with Rosa Bud and stalks her.
  • Superfluous Soloinvoked: Bazzard's actor invokes this. He plays a very small role in the show, but he wants a major role so badly that he takes the stage for a few extra minutes and sings his own "I Want" Song, "Never The Luck," about how much he wants to be a major actor.
  • Two-Headed Coin: Gets its own song to lampshade how everyone is playing two roles.
  • Villain Protagonist: No matter whose picked as the murderer, John Jasper has quite a nasty Split Personality, and is the leading role of the Show Within a Show, as well as being about tied with the Chairman as the largest role in the overall show.
  • Villain Song: The confessions explain the motivations behind whomever killed Edwin Drood, many of which are malicious.
  • You Bastard!: If the audience chooses for Neville and Helena to become a couple at the end of the show, the twins literally call them depraved and "you wicked bastards!!!".


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