When Charles Dickens died in 1870 he left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished. Only half of the twelve planned installments – like most of Dickens’ fiction, …Edwin Drood was published serially in a newspaper – were published. Posterity HATES unfinished stories, and in the intervening years many novelists, playwrights and screenwriters have tried to tidy up Dickens’ unfinished business.
In 1983, Joe Papp approached popular songwriter Rupert Holmes (1947- ) about writing a musical. Holmes, a fan of Dickens as well as the British music hall and pantomime traditions, selected …Edwin Drood and proceeded to do what few others have done before him – he wrote the book, the music, the lyrics, and the full orchestrations himself. Mounted by Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park in 1985 and quickly transferred to Broadway, where it ran for two years and racked up an impressive array of Tonys – including Best Musical – and other prestigious awards, and had its title shortened to simply Drood.
Then, mysteriously, it pretty much vanished from the American theatrical landscape – remembered only by theatre geeks*, mystery buffs and Dickens fans. None of the cast recordings is currently in print.
So if you have never heard of this show, join the club.