If you ask me, the reason there aren’t many “mystery” shows on Broadway is because it’s hard to capture a whodunit story outside of dinner theatre settings. But they ARE out there. For anyone interested, here is a profile of some of the most well-known detective musicals.
Curtains (music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, book by Rupert Holmes) Starred David Hyde Pierce in a Tony-winning performance and, apparently, the best role he’s ever played. Opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in March 2007 and ran for 511 performances.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (music and lyrics and book by Rupert Holmes) Wow, Rupert Holmes has really got a thing for mystery shows, hasn’t he?! Based on the unfinished final novel of Charles Dickens, it opened at the Imperial Theatre in December 1985 and ran for 608 performances.
Baker Street (music and lyrics by Marian Grudeff and Raymond Jessel, book by Jerome Coopersmith) Based on a Sherlock Holmes story. Opened at the Broadway Theatre in 1965 and ran for 311 performances. Here’s something that will BLOW YOUR MIND: Raymond Jessel is that older guy from last year’s America’s Got Talent season who sang the dirty song about a woman with- well- male genitalia.
Jekyll and Hyde (music and lyrics by Frank Wildhorn, Steve Cuden, and Leslie Bricusse, book by Leslie Bricusse) Not really a traditional detective show, but the identity of the murderer in this rock opera adaptation of the classic story remains a mystery to most of its characters. It opened at the Plymouth/Gerard Schoenfeld Theatre in April 1998 and ran for 1543 performances; the original Broadway production was filmed and features David the Hoff (!!) in the title roles.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (music and lyrics by Steve Lutvak and Rob Freedman, book by Rob Freedman) Again, YOU know who the killer is in this madcap Edwardian comedy, but no one else in the show does! This is the only one of the five on this list that I have seen- and I loved it. The best part about it was Jefferson Mays as all eight doomed members of the D’Ysquith family, a true tour-de-force! It opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre in November 2013, won last year’s Best Musical Tony Award, and is still going strong.
How many of these mystery musicals have you seen? Do you think the genre works in live performance?