Patriot Players perform unfinished Charles Dickens novel

April 21, 2011

By Staff

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NEW — 6 a.m. April 21, 2011

When Charles Dickens died from a stroke in 1870, he left his latest novel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” unfinished.

The novel languished until 1985, when American-British composer and author Rupert Holmes transformed it into a musical. To him, it didn’t matter that the novel’s murder mystery remained unsolved. Instead, he decided to let the audience vote, giving the show a possible 476 whodunit endings.

Liberty High School’s Patriot Players, under the guidance of directors Katherine Klekas and Eia Waltzer, have taken on “Drood” with gusto, given that it involves danger, romance and cross-dressing actors.

The musical begins in the Victorian era, with a troupe of actors putting on a show for the British public. Senior Savannah Freese plays an actress playing Edwin Drood, the male lead.

Drood is engaged to Rosa Bud (Hannah Grandine), but he’s not the only one in love with the fair damsel. Neville Landless (Erik Wolf-Rowland), an orphan from Ceylon, also fancies her affections, but his sister Helena Landless (Kylie Ishimitsu) tries to keep him at bay.

“Neville Landless is described as hot blooded,” Wolf-Rowland said. “He has anger management issues.”

Still, Dickens might be using his favorite type of character — a poor orphan — to illustrate the class disparities and social issues swirling around immigrants during the Victorian era.

The Rev. Crisparkle (Sean Callahan) acts as the guardian for the two orphans, but he complicates the story when the audience learns of his past connection with Rosa Bud.

Then there’s John Jasper (DJ Savo), Drood’s uncle and an opium addict who confesses his love for Rosa Bud.

Then there’s the fact that not everyone liked Drood, an upper-class dandy.

“He’s a pompous little git,” said junior Fiona Kine, a member of the ensemble. “He’s self-centered. He’s a peacock.”

When Drood’s torn and bloody coat is found, the cast reacts. Is he really dead? Who’s the murderer?

Like many of his classmates, Manning has read a few Dickens novels before performing “Drood.”

“I feel that Dickens touches on a lot of subjects that needed to be expressed in his time, like poverty,” junior Sheady Manning-Bruce said. “Everything was taboo and he brought it into the light in such an elegant way.”

The students are excited to stage a murder mystery, especially since it will be the last musical they’ll give on Liberty’s stage before it is torn down for the remodel.

“This is the last show in this theater space,” senior Kelsey Canaga said. “It’s like a celebration of all we’ve done and all we will do in the future.”

As the play nears its end, the attention falls to the audience to pick an ending.

“I like how we don’t know the ending, so it keeps it fresh every night,” said freshman Eric Spradling-Reim, a member of the ensemble.

If you go

‘Drood’

7:30 p.m. April 22-23, 28-30

2:30 pm. April 30

Liberty High School Auditorium

16655 S.E. 136th St., Renton

$10 for students; $12 for adults

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com.

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