Chita Rivera Is Broadway-Bound in Drood; Roundabout Plans a Picnic and a Premiere in 2012-13

By Kenneth Jones
01 Mar 2012

Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tony Award winner Chita Rivera (The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, West Side Story) will step into the world of the British Music Hall this fall for the first Broadway revival of the Tony Award-winning Rupert Holmes musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

The title, drawing from Charles Dickens' final and incomplete novel, is one of three productions announced on March 1 to appear in the Roundabout Theatre Company's 2012-13 season. A Broadway revival of William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning Picnic is also planned, as is the world-premiere Off-Broadway production of The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin by Steven Levenson. Additional titles will be announced for the upcoming season.

RTC associate artistic director Scott Ellis (Curtains, Twelve Angry Men) will direct Drood (as the show came to be branded later in its original 1985-87 run), a highly theatrical murder-mystery musical at which the audience votes "whodunnit." The show uses conventions of British Music Hall, including interrupting the action with a favorite song, crossdressing and a master of ceremonies. Rivera will play opium fiend Princess Puffer in the larky show.

The 1986 Tony winner as Best Musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood has book, music and lyrics by Holmes (Curtains), who won Tonys for Best Score and Best Book for the conceptual crowd-pleaser. It will play Studio 54, one of three Broadway theatres operated by the not-for-profit Roundabout.



Artistic director Todd Haimes said in a statement, "I've always found it fascinating that Rupert Holmes managed to turn an unfinished Dickens novel into a musical, let alone a highly entertaining one with a great score. It's an intriguing idea that led to a wonderfully offbeat show that gets the whole audience involved. And to be welcoming back our dear friend Chita Rivera is just the icing on the cake for this delightfully odd musical."

Picnic, a tale of the arousal of hopes and passions beyond the front porch, will be directed by RTC associate artist Sam Gold, the acclaimed and busy director of Off-Broadway's Circle Mirror Transformation, Tigers Be Still, The Big Meal, The Aliens, We Live Here RTC's Look Back in Anger and Broadway's Seminar. The drama will play in winter 2013 at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre.

Steven Levenson
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Here's how The Mystery of Edwin Drood is billed by RTC: "Who killed Edwin Drood? It's a question that has stumped audiences for years — now it's your turn to answer one of Broadway's most baffling mysteries. Take a trip back in time to a Victorian music hall where a rowdy ensemble of actors mounts a staging of Charles Dickens' unfinished novel. Everyone on stage is a suspect in the murder of young Edwin Drood — and it's up to you to choose the killer! Is it John Jasper, Edwin's protective but slightly maniacal uncle? Rosa Bud, his reluctant betrothed? The debauched Princess Puffer? Each performance ends differently, depending on what the audience decides!"

RTC will present Picnic in association with producer Darren Bagert. This is RTC's second production of the classic following a 1994 staging. According to RTC, "Sensual, passionate and delightfully funny, Picnic is a timeless American classic about the line between restraint and desire. It's a balmy Labor Day in the American Heartland, and a group of women are preparing for a picnic...but they'll have to lay a lot on the line before they can lay out the checkered cloths. When a handsome young drifter named Hal arrives, his combination of uncouth manners and titillating charm sends the women reeling, especially the beautiful Madge. When Hal is forced out of town, Madge must decide whether their fleeting encounter is worth changing the course of her life."

Levenson's play The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin, to be directed by Ellis, is part of Roundabout's New Play Initiative, "a collection of programs, designed to foster and produce new work by emerging and established artists." The commission followed Roundabout's 2008 Roundabout Underground production of Levenson's play The Language of Trees.

Performances will play the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 W. 46th Street.

"Tom Durnin did the time for his white-collar crime," according to RTC. "In The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin, he's determined to win back the respect and position he believes he deserves. Tom's son warily allows his father to camp out on his couch, hoping the man who let everyone down has finally turned a new page. After a lifetime of empty promises, can Tom find a place in a family that has worked so hard to move on without him?"

It's a "funny, raw and moving world premiere about the price we pay for defaulting on those we love."

Subscriptions for the 2012-2013 season will go on sale in March 2012. Visit www.roundabouttheatre.org/joinnow for details.