One of the interesting things about going through the book of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and reading the musical, is looking at who they left in this particular piece of silliness, and why. There are a fair number of characters who wind up jettisoned outright, and I’m not sure the whodunnit plot is really affected. There are a few, however, whom it seems weren’t so much omitted as they were absorbed in utero by the Reverend Crisparkle as the show was conceived.
In the book, Crisparkle is Neville Landless’s tutor, and he remains that in the musical. He’s also Neville’s staunchest supporter (aside from the young man’s sister, of course). But that’s largely his role in the story. He plays confidante to the hot-headed Landless boy, and staves off accusations by others (including, in the book, his own mother).
In the musical, however, Crisparkle takes on triple duty. He gets an upgrade from tutor to guardian, subsuming the role from the amzaingly-named, but absent, Luke Honeythunder. He also takes on a significant aspect of Rosa’s not-appearing-in-this-stage-show guardian: Mr. Grewgious.1
It works just fine, since honestly the book is kind of flooded with caretakers and faux-parental figures, most of whom spend a lot of time talking to each other about what do to with their charges. It’s interesting in what it may say about the amount of oversight of the time period, but in terms of the rip-roaring, odd whodunnit plot, fewer parents and parental figures make things move much more quickly.
Besides, I just keep thinking of Crisparkle as doing what the church has often done, and absorbing those philosophies which might be sympathetic in order to increase influence. In this case, influence just happens to coincide with time onstage.
1. I can never love Charles Dickens enough for his character names. Honestly, they provide recurring amusement even in the gravest of tales.[back]