PLAYBILL EXCLUSIVE: Who's Who? Edwin Drood Troupers Share Bios of Their Alter-Ego Show Folk

By Playbill Staff
December 20, 2012

The cast of Roundabout Theatre Company's acclaimed new Broadway production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood picked up their quill pens to create mock Playbill-style biographies of the Victorian troupers they play in the English music hall-style romp.



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The make-believe credits and personal histories of the ladies and gentlemen of London's Music Hall Royale were cooked up exclusively for Playbill by Roundabout cast members Robert Creighton, Peter Benson, Jessie Mueller, Stephanie J. Block, Nicholas Barasch, Gregg Edelman, Will Chase, Andy Karl, Chita Rivera, Jim Norton and Betsy Wolfe.

And, now, cast your mind back to the English music hall of the 1890s, when limelight, gaslight, footlight, canvas, greasepaint — and tireless actors — created make-believe. Here are Playbill Who's Who bios that might have been, but never were:

Nick Cricker (Robert Creighton)
Was previously employed, for several years, as the purveyor of fine ale and liquors at The Pickled Pig on Rose Street. That he is a member of the Music Hall Royale Company is through the generosity and foresight of our dear Chairman William Cartwright. Mr. Cartwright, being a frequent fixture at "The Pig," knew of Mr. Cricker's fondness for a joke. When the Company player Augustus Jones sadly and suddenly departed this earth Mr. Cartwright, in a perhaps less-than-lucid moment, invited Mr. Cricker to stand in. It was in the production of Hurry Up Harry where he made his debut speaking that singular line, "I wouldn't touch that if I was you!" Since that auspicious beginning playing that drunken blacksmith he has gone on to play other memorable roles including: Baddles the drunken gardener in Love Me or Cleave Me; Deedles the drunken butler in Two For The Taking; Sidles the drunken jockey in Cranky Doodle Dandy; Noodles the drunken chef in Angels With Flirty Faces; and most recently Durdles the drunken keeper of the crypts. By and by, the Music Hall has become the family business, as young Nick Cricker II has joined the troupe, following his mother's untimely death, and is sure to become a vital member of this boisterous and beautiful lot at the Music Hall Royale.

Peter Benson as Phillip Bax
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Phillip Bax (Peter Benson)
Mr. Philip Bax returns to the Music Hall this season after a triumphant appearance at The Knutsford Music Theatre in Spring Into Spring in which he played an Autumn Flower. He is perhaps best known here at The Royale for his work as a mute farmer in last season's City Life. He has reprised his role as farmer in several subsequent productions of different plays, gaining some small acclaim for his evocative pitchfork choreography and expressive grunting. He has written several as yet unproduced plays, most notably The Thorn of Anxiety: A Tragic Tragedy. Mr. Bax hopes to perform the title role in said play here at the Royale in the upcoming seasons. In the meantime, he is quite happy to assay the role of Mr. Bazzard in this evening's production will endeavor to make the most of his small parts.

Jessie Mueller as Janet Conover
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Janet Conover (Jessie Mueller)
Janet Conover is thrilled to return to the Music Hall Royale this holiday season, in the Dickensian thriller The Mystery of Edwin Drood. She has been drawing crowds since her star turn as Chai Neeyce in Her Biggest Fan. Thrilling audiences with her highly dramatic portrayals, favorite roles include Cleopatra, her one-woman "Jungle Book," and signature tunes "The Rice Is Nice in the Paddy," "Don't Knip My Knish" and "Twice Like the French." As always, she thanks you for spending your hard-earned money on a night at the theatre and encourages you to make a bit 'o' noise, kick back, have a drink (have a few!) And above all...enjoy the show!

Stephanie J. Block as Alice Nutting
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Alice Nutting (Stephanie J. Block)
Miss Alice Nutting is pleased to be returning to the quaint boards of the Music Hall Royale as she is as much a philanthropist as a renowned artiste. Miss Nutting is best remembered here at the Music Hall Royale for her turn as Bernard in Charlie Big Potatoes, and upon her return you might expect this glorious mezzo-soprano to break out in a rousing rendition of "Isn't That My Sister's Tuba?," "Jolly Good Luck to My Old Man" or "I Wanted to Sit on Cockburn's Parliament." However, the titular character of Edwin Drood in tonight's Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood showcases the dramatical proficiencies of our masterful Alice Nutting — a skill that has led her to headline in the Crystal Palace's wildly acclaimed Hansel and Gretel, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro at the Lyric Theatre and, of course, her star turn as Hamlet at both the Royal Strand Theatre and the London Pavilion. It must be noted that Miss Nutting was honored and humbled when requested to perform at Queen Victoria's first Jubilee. But it has always been her promise and belief to give back to the community from which she found so much growth and success. Her performance this evening is dedicated to her late and loving parents, George and Winefred Nutting, the theatrical management team that aided and guided the Music Hall Royale for over two decades.

Robert Creighton and Nicholas Barasch as Nick Cricker and son
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Nick Cricker, Jr. (Nicholas Barasch)
Nick Cricker, Jr. (Deputy) is thrilled to be making his theatrical debut in the Music Hall Royale's premiere musical production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Throughout his 14 years, young Cricker has been reciting riddles, performing skits and telling jokes at home. He gives credit to his goofy father, Nick Cricker, Sr., the Music Hall's chief comedian. When Nick was just a tender lad of 4, he tragically lost his dear sainted mother. Ever since, Nick has been cheering up (or trying to cheer up) his ole dad and keep up his comedic spirits. Nick hopes that one day he and his father will go on to become London's best-known comedy duo. But if not, he's perfectly happy to have a jolly good time at the Music Hall! Nick wants to thank his MHR family for making this an outstanding experience, which keeps getting more hilarious every day!

Gregg Edelman as Cedric Moncrieffe
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Cedric Moncrieffe (Gregg Edelman)
For the last 62 years, ever since his father, Sebastian Moncrieffe and his mother, Adele Wintersmythe, met performing a duet version of "Stop Your Tickling Jock," there has been a Montcrieffe in the acting company of the Music Hall Royale. Cedric, always known for his superb timing, first displayed this skill when he was born during the intermission between the 6th and 7th acts of an all-day performance of The Crusades — A Musicale. Theatrical lore has it that the newborn was wrapped up in a copy of an unfavorable review of the company's efforts and brought out onstage at the end of the performance, where Cedric promptly produced a rather wet response on the reviewers work. He was an instant hit.

Although his performing career started with smaller roles such as the page in Charles XII, the page in A Woman Never Vext and the page in Oberon or the Elf-King's Oath, his first great theatrical success came as the title character in The Little Match Seller. The Times of London wrote of a young Cedric Moncrieffe, "This young actor displays 2 of the 3 necessary assets for a long career in the theatre: He has great legs and he can die numerous times in a single scene without boring the audience."

Since that early effort, with his sweet singing voice, long legs, and lovely hands, Cedric has been called upon numerous times to assay the more feminine roles for his beloved Music Hall Royale delivering over and over again such classic tunes as "She's a Lassie From Lancashire," "Down At The Old Bull and Bush" and "Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy." His efforts were culminated in his much-beloved and often-reprised performance of Little Bo Peep.

While acknowledging all his great success as "Peep," as the company now call him, and all the many and varied women he has portrayed over the last 27 years, Cedric is quite pleased that the Chairman has finally seen fit to let him lay down his crook, not to mention his girdle, for this evening's effort. He only hopes that with your kind assent, and possibly a few words with our beloved Chairman as you leave the theatre this evening, he might enjoy a much needed respite from corsets and heels....his back is killing him. Enjoy the show this evening and...cheers!

Will Chase as Clive Paget
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Clive Paget (Will Chase)
Clive Paget-b. 1860. Born George Clive Henry in Westminster. Oldest of three boys, son of Dan Henry and Loisa Kean. Dan, a trumpet player in the Brighouse Cocksure Band, taught young George and brothers Percy and Henry (yes, Henry Henry!) music as well as trumpet, with George excelling on trumpet and later piano. Along with these skills and his mother's urging him to sing (she a chorister in Westminster's Episcopalian Canon Madrigal Singers), young George and his brothers formed A Trio of Henrys, one of outer London's most popular music hall acts, appearing annually at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Christmas pantomimes. It was soon apparent that George, with his smart looks and glorious voice, was the main attraction and he soon embarked on a career on his own as a thespian, singer and all around showman. Dropping the "George" and "Henry," and taking the surname Paget (claiming he was a true servant to the great composers and writers [Paget being the Middle English occupational name for a servant]), Clive has wowed Englishmen (and women!) from his performances at the Theatre Royal Lyceum and English Opera House in Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte and Shakespeare's Hamlet (under the direction of Sir Henry Irving's brother Phil) all the way to Leeds, Liverpool, and John-Upon-Hamptoncaught and its famed Canterbury Pavillion Circle in such music hall hits as Goodbye Sweet Kenneth, Where Did You Get That Crumpet? and with fellow Drood mate William Cartwright, Bob IS Your Uncle and the father-son tragicomedy play-within-a-play operetta, Chaucer and Me, taking all of England (and some parts of Wales) by the tail, all three tails of the lions some say, with the popular song "Both Sides of the Coin." With a voice from the angels, and a likeness to our very own Royal, Prince Albert, Clive Paget has become known as England's theatrical Cock of the Walk, a favorite of the fairer sex, and a gem in Thespis' most glorious crown, and tonight, your True and Loyal Servant.

Andy Karl as Victor Grinstead
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Victor Grinstead (Andy Karl)
Pronounced Grin-stehd like "bread" or "red." A name derived from the old Grimesteed family, pronounce like "mead" or "speed," whose noble involvement in the Battle of Hastings acquired them land throughout England. The Grimsteed coat of arms pictures a helmet with ostrich feathers atop a shield displaying a bright green bush and a pair of pruning scissors, which illustrates the family trade of "excellent landscaping."

All of that information would be incredibly interesting if it weren't for the fact of it being so unbelievably dull but must be in print with this bio for traditional family ritual.

Now to the good stuff.

Victor comes to the Music Hall Royale after his long run with the Cambridge Boys Touring Company, where nightly he would make the ladies swoon with a sultry rendition of the popular song "3 Fingers for Irene," a shocking yet catchy number that put him on the map and in high demand for any performance venue. When the great Chairman, William Cartwright, pleaded with Victor to come to the MHR (Music Hall Royale) he leaped at the chance to perform there because of its history and regard… and not for the salary that he's been accustomed to.

Born in Birmingham, Victor grew up with a silver spoon and an adoring wealthy family (another reason salary is not all that important) where as a child he learned the skills of fencing and equestrian dressage. Victor began his career in the "theatre" by chance. As a young man he fell in love with a beautiful singer, named Irene, who seduced him to his first visit to a music hall. Captivated by lust and a fascination with the stage, Victor set aside his upper-crust lifestyle to perform alongside her. In an ironic turn of events, the beautiful singer left Victor for a three-fingered German cellist.

Alas, he was none the worse for wear, for the "Victor always has the complete upper hand." He's quite handsome, quite popular, quite rich, and now…quite available.

Other credits include Johnny Jay in Pickle! Pickle! Where's the Pickle?, The Lover in The Lover and Johnny Jay's Ghost in the sequel There's The Pickle!

Chita Rivera as Angela Prysock
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Angela Prysock (Chita Rivera)
Angela Sally Prysock. I was born in the East End of London, one of four children living in a tenement near the docks, with my Nan and Mother. I never knew my Father, who was a bigamist several times over. My mother left one day never to return, leaving me at the age 17 to raise the youngest of her brood, my half sister. Nan died and the family split up. Loving and needing people, I was drawn to listening to the music of the buskers on street corners, and all I wanted to do was escape to the world of music, acceptance and love. Had many jobs, but I was always searching for the music. Worked in The Vaudeville Theater doing anything, till my day came, and I grabbed it. No kids, 3 husbands (legally — I liked the men!!) I've been in the theatre for..... "Mind Your Own Beeswax" Years!!! And finally found my world of Love, Acceptance and Music in the Music Hall for 25 Years. By the way, my sister is tip top, and I am the proud aunt of 2 lassies and 1 lad. "Life Ain't Bad, I'd Say."

Jim Norton as William Cartwright
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

William Cartwright (Jim Norton)
William Cartwright was born in Battersea, London in 1830. His father was an army sergeant, and his mother worked as a barmaid, and sometimes performed at the old Battersea Town Hall. His father was posted to India, and slowly faded from their lives. His mother returned to the music hall, with young William in tow. They appeared on stage together singing Victorian ballads. William continued to work in the music halls, and as a boy actor in touring companies. He finally made it back to London, playing small parts in Henry Irving's company. Upon his mother's death, it was revealed that she had been putting aside monies from his father's army pension. This enabled William to provide his mother with a good South London sendoff, and it also meant he could start his own company of actors. William was inspired by seeing Charles Dickens perform his one-man performances, and he based his portrayal of the chairman on Dickens, who was described by one critic as "the buttonholer, the friend, the intimate, your self" with his little company in dire financial straits his adaptation of Edwin Drood is a last ditch attempt to revive his fortunes, and his career. Dickens once said, "There is no class of society whom so many people regard with affection — as actors." Dickens died at 6 PM on June 9th 1870.

Betsy Wolfe as Deirdre Peregrine
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Deirdre Peregrine (Betsy Wolfe)
The youngest daughter of two chemists, Deirdre Peregrine quickly discovered, due to her family's constant urging, she did not possess the requisite mental capabilities to follow in their footsteps.
Exhausted by her constant need for compliments and attention, her parents made her bid farewell to her 10 siblings and sent her to boarding school. After bewitching the boys, occasional girls, and
several teachers, she was asked to leave. Sitting at the train station, feeling trapped and alone, she shed a tear just as the infamous magician Hendrick Von Strassenburg IV spotted her. Having recently lost his assistant in a botched mirror trick and seeing her beauty and flair for the dramatic, he immediately invited her to join his traveling show. After spending two years on his European tour, Deirdre felt it was time to transition to the legitimate stage. At the Music Hall Royale Deirdre shot to instant fame and fortune when in the same season, she dared to take on Nina in The Seagull, Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Silvius in As You Like It, Jocasta in Oedipus and perhaps most notably, her one woman interpretation of Julius Caesar. By all accounts, the murder scene was unlike anything seen before or since.

(The above poster/photo illustrations line the lobby of Studio 54, where Rupert Holmes' musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood is now playing.)