Last fall I led up to Halloween with a series of horror themed musicals. This fall I'll be looking at murder mysteries.
In 1976 Walter Kerr of the New York Times dismissed the genre saying: "It's never worked. Reason: the music totally relaxes the suspense, and the suspense makes the music seem intrusive."
The successful musical mysteries, like Drood, tend to forgo suspense for comedy. Charles Dickens died before completing The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The suspects are introduced, Drood vanishes, a disguised detective appears and the story ends. Several authors and screenwriters have supplied answers over the years, though the one Dickens foreshadows isn't very interesting. Rupert Holmes shakes things up by letting the audience vote for the identity of the killer and the detective. The audience can then pair off two of the survivors as lovers.
Few of the 8 suspects have actual motives for killing Drood and Holmes acknowledges this. He's set us in the framing device of a music hall. Many of the actors admit they simply want to sing another song.