Behind the Curtains of Edwin Drood

A new year brings new mysteries to the Poplar Pike Playhouse. The Mystery of Edwin Drood offers not only a peculiar storyline for its audiences, but also offers the possibility of a different ending to the show every night. However, there is another show going on backstage as technical crews work hard to keep the magic of the show alive each night. While actors perform on stage, the tech crews are busy backstage placing props, giving cues, fixing costumes, and quite literally “turning” the set. 

Inspired by the unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, Rupert Holmes created the musical to complete the work begun by Dickens. The audience decides how the show will end each night, making it the first Broadway musical to have multiple endings. In addition to a different ending each night, the crew backstage at the PPP is prepared to impress audiences with beautiful costumes, incredibly well crafted props, remarkable wigs and makeup, and a brilliant revolving set. 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is set in England during the 1800’s. Dialogue may help illustrate the time period but it’s the costumes that help transport the audience back in time. With this responsibility, the costume crew must take extra precaution to remain true to the era of the show. 

“Preparing costumes for the show is really an interesting experience,” says costume chairman Avery Moore, “There is so much historical content in every single costume piece and the fact that we help the actors by creating these appearances is so gratifying.”

Costumes are not the only thing the actors need in order to physically become their characters. The makeup and wig crews are working hard to create the various ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds of the characters. Every detail, no matter how fine, must help tell about the character.

“This musical has proven to be very challenging for hair and makeup,” says makeup chairman Mazzy Clements, “There are actors that are portraying completely different nationalities and it is our job to make them look believable.”

Another key element to enhancing the magic of the show is props. Although props may be as small as a cup or as large as a sword, they play an important part in the illusion of the show, especially since the show pertains to a specific time period. As a result, the props crew must work attentively to integrate the props into the show.

“Searching for and creating props centered around the 1800’s is very demanding due to the amount of detail and research required,” says props chairman Deborah Noel, “This show is especially challenging because we have to prepare for various endings each night.”

The props crew certainly pays a great deal of attention to their work, but there is another group of committed students who operate with extreme detail on a much larger scale. The student crew who is building the set have worked tirelessly in their efforts to create a unique backdrop for the musical. Not only is the set for The Mystery of Edwin Drood constructed to look like the time period, it also has an extraordinary characteristic about it. Almost the entire set has the ability to rotate, meaning the stage is able to house multiple “locations” at all times. 

“This is the most challenging and exciting set to build,” says master carpenter Naya Foster, “The sets at the PPP can slide around and change but I have never had the opportunity to construct a revolving one. The feeling of building something so complex is extremely satisfying.”

The Poplar Pike Playhouse will open its curtains for The Mystery of Edwin Drood beginning February 23 and will run through March 11. For more information or to reserve and buy tickets, call the Poplar Pike Playhouse Box Office at (901) 755-7775 or visit PPP.org. To keep with the latest news, follow the Playhouse on Facebook, Instagram (poplarpikeplayhouse), or Twitter (@ppptheatre).