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What the Dickens?

September 13, 2018

FITCHBURG -- Become a part of the show this weekend at the New Players Theatre Guild’s musical, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” “It involves a lot of participation and give-and-take between the actors and the audience,” said John Somers, director of the musical.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” has its final showings this weekend at 15 Rollstone St., Fitchburg, on Friday and Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for students.

The musical is based on Charles Dickens’ final unfinished novel of the same title.

“Unfortunately, he died before he could finish it,” Somers said. “It’s one of his few unfinished novels, and for years there was debate of what the ending was going to be. Would Edwin show up dead or alive? Who killed him?”

This is the second show Somers has directed for NPTG; he presented “The Wizard of Oz” last year. He said the cast of 17 includes several newcomers to NPTG.

“I’ve done acting and directing all over the U.S., and this show is by far the most challenging show I’ve ever directed,” he said.

The musical is set in Chesterham, England, in the late 1800s. Edwin Drood has been mysteriously murdered, and any of the remaining characters could be the murderer -- depending on the night you go.

“When the time comes, the chairperson steps forward and conducts voting with the audience for who they think the murderer is,” Somers said. “Every night could be a totally different show. We have to practice for any and all possible endings.”

Don’t expect the musical to be in Dickens’ signature bleak style, though.

“It’s 100 percent a comedy,” Somers said. “It’s vulgar. It’s bawdy. It’s sexy. We have people running around in corsets and things like that.”

He said the show is more challenging than past New Players productions.

“It’s not going to be prim and proper,” he said. “It gets pretty crass.”

Each actor plays two characters -- the actor in the Music Hall Royale and the character each plays in the Music Hall’s production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” In other words, it’s a play within a play.

This meta-concept doesn’t end at the stage, though.

“When you walk into the front doors of the theater, we have the actors in this ‘theater company’ acting as the ushers, the ticket takers -- everything,” Somers said. “The moment you walk in, you’re already in the musical.”

The downstairs area of the theater has been dressed up to look like an old-style music hall from the 1800s.

The actors will improv with the audience before the show officially begins and throughout the musical in attempts to get audience members on their side so they aren’t voted as the murderer in the end.

Somers encourages the audience to participate as much as possible.

“The more they participate with the actors, the more the actors participate back, and the more fun they’re going to have,” he said.

Tickets can be bought at nptg.org , or at the door.

Email juliasarcinelli@outlook.com if you have any upcoming events you would like to be featured in Best Bets.

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Fair

The Big E returns this weekend to 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. The fair will be open Friday through Sept. 30. Gates open at 8 a.m., and regular admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children 6-12, and free for children 5 and younger. However, for opening day, all ages can get tickets for $10 either at the gate or online at thebige.com . For more information on musical performances and entertainment, visit thebige.com .

Food Trucks

The fifth annual Leominster Food Truck Festival returns to Downtown Leominster at the Monument Square Historic District on Friday, from 5 to 9 p.m. Enjoy various treats from more than 20 different food trucks -- everything from cannoli to grilled cheese sandwiches to barbecue.

Food and Drink

The Wachusett Brew Yard, 175 State Road East, Westminster, will hold its second annual Rocktoberfest on Saturday, from noon to 10 p.m. Admission is $20. Enjoy a 32-ounce acrylic stein with a token to fill it, authentic German style food from Chef Simon, and food from Smokestack Urban Barbecue. There will also be live music, and if you show up in your best dirndls and lederhosen, you could win a prize.

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