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'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'

Sasha Brooks and Rich Thomas play Princess Puffer and John Jasper in the Hamilton Players' "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

HAMILTON – The Hamilton Players will present ta e hilarious, interactive whodunit mystery musical, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," through March 5.

Author Charles Dickens passed away before he could finish his final novel "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" and reveal the murderer. In the play and musical by Rupert Holmes, the audience members are detectives who vote on the killer and select the ending.

Actor Mara Luther said the actors are eager to see what ending is selected from 250 possible combinations.

“I think if people come the first weekend they will want to come back to catch a different ending,” she said. “It is unique in that way. The people we have working on it are so phenomenal and so on top of everything that it is getting really crisp and fun.”

The play is set in Victorian England in the late 1800s and each Victorian actor also plays a role in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

Luther said the characters are a Victorian dancehall-version of what they think would be exotic. “It is tongue-in-cheek mocking of what the British sensibility would be at the time or what they think would be exotic but it actually isn’t accurate,” she said.

Luther and Hoyt Mangrum portray siblings from the orient.

“We are exotic and suspicious people because our history is a mystery,” Luther said. “We are not from around these parts.”

Cast members are Kay Ownbey, Terry Croghan, Lydia Jessop, Rich Thomas, Mara Luther, Hoyt Mangrum, Nevin Graves, Sasha Brooks, Nathaniel Heckeroth, Keziah Hill, Sam Duerr, Randi Burdette, Colton Mason, Carrie Storrow, Virginia Villemez, Daphne Jackson, Samanth Fife, Regan Farley and Kurt Owens. The play is directed by Denise Rose, Lydia Jessop is music director and accompanists are Rebecca Burns and Julia Jessop.

Luther said Ownbey plays Edwin Drood.

“It’s traditionally played by a woman because we all have double characters,” Luther said. “Her actress character is known for male impersonations. We’ll have to see the audiences reaction to Drood. They may see him as a sympathetic character or they may not be too sympathetic when he goes. We’ll find out.”

Rich Thomas plays Clive Paget who plays John Jasper in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

“When you come through the playhouse door I will introduce myself as Clive Paget who plays John Jasper on stage,” Thomas said. “John Jasper has a split personality. I could be this smooth slimy ladies man but then I could be a psychotic and quiet man.”

Thomas said he is the only actor playing an actor who plays an actor with a double personality.

“I’m the villain,” Thomas said. “Did I kill Edwin Drood? You’ll have to come to the play and find out. It depends on what the audience decides that night. We have to be ready to do multiple endings which is very fun.”

Thomas said the play is complicated but extremely enjoyable.

“Whoever comes will get quite a few laughs and be terribly entertained," he said. "There are great interactions, choices and we acknowledge the audience at different times. You can boo and hiss the villain and cheer the hero. It is definitely one to see even if you’re not a fan of theater or musicals. It’s different and exciting.”

Luther said the play has adult themes and language and is best suited for adults.

“It has some naughty humor which is hilarious but I wouldn’t bring anyone younger than 12,” Luther said. “Some of it is going to go over their heads but also it is dark and gothic. Dickens was not a cheerful writer. The show is a comedy but the original work was not a comedy.”

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” continues Feb. 24-26 and March 3-5. Show times are 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. For tickets visit hamiltonplayers.com, email boxoffice@hamiltonplayers.com or call 406-375-9050, Wednesdays through Fridays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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