PHS Drama Students Bring Unfinished Dickens Novel to Life with ‘Edwin Drood’

Viewers get to decide how the story ends in this unique musical!

Coming to the PHS Performing Arts Center this weekend is The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a musical based on an unfinished novel written by Charles Dickens in the late 1800s. In addition to being a musical, it also has a comedy, murder-mystery feel to it, and it’s a little more on the mature side since it’s an older play. So if you enjoy plays and want to bring your family, or support your friends, or never have seen a play before, the musical will be held in the PAC March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th! And you can purchase tickets by visiting

This strange story takes place in the city of Cloisterham, and narrates the story of a young Edwin Drood, an Englishman. When Drood suddenly vanishes from the town, skepticism and distrust arises within the people of Cloisterham, and everyone starts pointing fingers at each other, trying to figure out who is the one responsible for Drood’s unexpected vanishing.

The list of suspects includes debonair but nefarious John Jasper, Drood’s fiance Rosa Bud, opium den owner Princess Puffer, and peculiar siblings Helena and Neville Landless. So who did it, you may wonder?

Well in this play, that’s your choice! Since Dickens died while writing the story, the murder is unknown. So as the play goes on, you get to decide how the story ends, and who the detective and lovers are!

In an interview with Mr. Hall, the director, he tells us a little more on how the picking process works: “there are 8 suspects and the audience picks who they think the murderer is at the end of the play, and then the kids have to prepare all the various endings… So it can change every night.”

Mr. Hall continued by explaining how this play is really different from previous plays the PHS theater crew has held.

“Well I think theater goers will really like it. It’s definitely a metatheater play because it’s about a theater company putting on a play, so there are actors pretending to be actors, pretending to be characters…so it’s a different crowd than [the last PHS musical] Spongebob,” Hall said.

To get a second view on that weird concept of acting as another person and a character, we spoke to Najm Muhammad, who stars as Clive Paget—the real life actor that played as John Jasper, and he described the difficulty of bringing both to life on stage.

“It’s challenging because there are so many possibilities…but if you just put yourself in the body of the characters, then it’s easier to decide how they would react to this situation or how they would react to that situation,” said Muhammad. “It’s real life for them, even though it may not seem real life for you,” he continued.

In addition to that idea of things being brought to life, we talked to Wyatt Shaw, a member of the sound crew, to get a behind-the-scenes idea on how the production plays a big part in the musical too.

“Sound effects and lighting really put the actors in the scenes,” said Shaw. “It makes it so much more immersive than it would be if you just did a play with minimal cues. I think adding in whatever sound keys we have for thunder, lighting, the light changes, and stuff like that really brings it up a level, it really makes it seem like you’re there in the scene with the actors.”

Something else that may amaze you about PHS plays, is that they usually complete the preparation for their musicals at least four weeks ahead of time, and that most definitely requires a lot of practice and commitment. Which is why, it’s not surprising that Mr. Hall said time was going to be another one of their biggest challenges for this play.

“In most scenarios, you’re looking at places that do it in 12 weeks,” said Mr. Hall. “We do it in 8, and we also all have full time jobs, and families, so I always kind of marvel at the team that does it, and then the students’ ability to kind of roll with it, learn stuff on the fly…make changes, and whatnot.”

With that in mind, we can really take the time to appreciate how long the entire team and students have spent on this musical. So if you can, come to the PAC on any, or all of the three days available in March to support and see the effort that was really put into this musical and, even more importantly, have a great time!

Some Fun Facts About Drood:

> Drood was written by Rupert Holmes, and first released to broadway December 2nd, 1985, then closing 2 years later on May 16.
> There have been over 600 performances of this play since.
> The show was the first ever Broadway musical with multiple endings. (determined by audience vote).
> The musical has won five Tony Awards out of eleven nominations, including Best Musical!