That the audience-input aspect of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" remains giddy fun is no surprise. Rupert Holmes' 1986 Tony-winning adaptation of Charles Dickens' unfinished 1870 novel has an unbeatable asset in our deciding its outcome.
What is astounding about the benchmark Sacred Fools revival is its ribald immersion in the Victorian music hall ethos. This registers at first sight of designer Joel Daavid's magnificent, venue-spanning set. And Edward Marks' superb lighting plot lacks only footlights in its inventive ambience.
Clad in Suzanne Klein's period costumes, the players spontaneously interact with us until Brandon Clark's Mr. Throttle bangs his stick to start the show. Tim Thorn enters as arch Chairman Cartwright. Music director Bill Newlin's pert band opens "There You Are," as the Music Hall Royale erupts in John Pennington's witty choreography.
Though agreeable, Holmes' score is stylistically diffuse. For all its ingenuity, his overstuffed libretto can feel arbitrary. Yet under Douglas Clayton's inspired direction, the environmental approach emphasizes "Drood's" strengths and shrinks its weaknesses, aided by a sterling ensemble.