The SCF Music Theatre Ensemble Presents Rupert Holmes' The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The SCF Music Theatre Ensemble Presents Rupert Holmes' The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The SCF Musical Theatre Program is proud to present the 2021 Fall Musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, directed by Melodie Dickerson, in the SCF Neel Performing Arts Center on the following dates and times:
Friday, November 5, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 6, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 7, 2:00 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased through  the SCF Neel Performing Arts Center Website or at the door 45 minutes before each show.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a musical by Rupert Holmes that is based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel of the same name. The show was the first Broadway musical with multiple endings, leaving the audience to determine the outcome by vote! Listen to this Suncoast Culture Club podcast episode to meet four of the performers (Edgar Sanchez, Grace Gustafuson, Mia Freeman, and Lylyana Brych) along with director Melodie Dickerson, as they tell us all about the show, their characters, and the experience of producing this amazing and one-of-a-kind show. Then, get your tickets, come to the show, and be prepared to vote on the outcome!

• SCF Music Program Facebook Page Link to watch the concert live

• SCF Theatre Program Website & Facebook Page & Instagram

• Manatee Performing Arts Center Website & Facebook & Twitter & YouTube

• The Players Centre for the Performing Arts Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube

• The Island Players Website

• Asolo Repertory Theatre Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube

Sarasota Opera Website & Facebook & Instagram

Support the show (


Robyn Bell: Listen up y'all we have a murder mystery that needs to be solved at the State College of Florida. As our music theater ensemble is producing the show. The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Friday, November 5th at seven 30 Saturday, November 6th at seven 30 and Sunday, November 7th at 2:00 PM in the SCF Neel Performing Arts Center. You can get tickets by going to N E E L or through the Suncoast Culture Clubs, Calendar of Events, page on our website and here to tell us all about this fabulous show and production is it's director, Queen Melodie Dickerson, and four cast members from the SCF music program. Edgar Sanchez, Grace Gustafson, Mia Freeman, and Lylyana Brych. So Melodie Dickerson, this year's process to produce the fall musical at SCF has looked a lot different from last year's, right. 

Melodie Dickerson: It is much different. We do not wear masks every day and we will be able to have a live audience in attendance for the shows, as you just said, mentioned 

Robyn Bell: And have you had to block it? So they're six feet apart like you did last year. 

Melodie Dickerson: In fact, they're much closer than six feet on many occasions. 

Robyn Bell: So it's, back to kind of normal for you. 

Melodie Dickerson: as long as normal is for skies. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. But I mean, no masks, no social distancing, 

Melodie Dickerson: all those, some people have worn masks. I will say that if you want to can, and some people do on a regular basis. Yeah. Or just feel more comfortable 

Robyn Bell: now the Mystery of Edwin Drood. Can you tell us about the show and the plot and how do I, as an audience member, lend a helping hands. 

Melodie Dickerson: Let me tell you about the show. It is a show that I have known since 1985. I first heard the cast album when I was in New York and I thought it was just. Engaging and intriguing. The show is based on the unfinished novel of Charles Dickens. The last novel that he wrote, and Charles Dickens was known as a person that not only wrote, but he would go around and he would tell his stories and he would be all the characters in the story and he would get so intent and so crazy over telling everything he would just wear himself out. Well, he was not doing as well. He was in later in life and the physician said, Charles Dickens, you need to stop doing this. You're just going to wear yourself out while he really did on this. And he was in the process of writing the Mystery of Edwin Drood when he just laid down his pen one day. And he never picked it back up again because he passed away. 

Robyn Bell: Really? He just died, 

Melodie Dickerson: just died. Now we're all familiar with Charles Dickens now, of course the 

Robyn Bell: Moby Dick

Melodie Dickerson: Moby Dick. 

Robyn Bell: No, I was trying to catch you, but it was going to say 

Melodie Dickerson: Christmas, Carol, which you and I have done twice together.

Robyn Bell: Great expectations. 

Melodie Dickerson: Great expectations. Anything else? 

Edgar Sanchez: Well, I'd say he's an amazing playwright, amazing poet in his time. So I'm just very happy that he got to put some of his efforts onto his story. 

Robyn Bell: Edgar Sanchez at is talking. 

Melodie Dickerson: So, so as is the case, folks look for properties and ideas to write musicals. And maybe some of you have heard of Rupert Holmes, or maybe not those of you who were around in the seventies. Might've heard him. He wrote the escape song, which is pina colada song.

Robyn Bell: get lost in the rain. Oh, we should go on the road on the road. We were selling tickets, baby. 

Melodie Dickerson: So he had done this and he also wrote for many, many famous singers did arrangements , but he got this idea that he wanted to write a musical. And somehow he got hooked up with Joe Papp and the Shakespeare in the park, in New York city. And he came up with this idea and I've watched him explaining it in podcasts. It's amazing because he took the novel, and he adapted it. He wrote the lyrics, he wrote the music and he did all the orchestrations. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. But the story wasn't finished yet, 

Melodie Dickerson: the story wasn't finished. So there was an idea that was his idea. He comes from Britain originally and the tradition of the British music. In which the audience comes to be entertained and to be interacted with the performers on stage telling jokes involving them in melodramatic acting. So he put this idea together. He said, what if every performance was a different ending and taking the title, the Mystery of Edwin Drood, what happened to Edwin Drood? Was he actually dead or was he still alive? 

Robyn Bell: So that's the first question that we have to answer. 

Melodie Dickerson: Well, it's not the first question, but it is one of the questions. It's the main question. Is he dead or alive? And if he is dead, who killed him? So we have seven suspects.

Robyn Bell: Okay. So that takes me to my next question. How many are in the cast? 

Melodie Dickerson: There are 21 people in the cast. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. But seven of the 21 are suspects.

Melodie Dickerson: Some are not suspects because they were never seen in the same situation with him. I seen his story. Well, let 

Robyn Bell: me, okay. Let me ask you a question. Cause I don't know much about this whole Charles Dickens things. How far along was he in the novel when he keeled over, when he popped his clogs, as they say yeah, 

Melodie Dickerson: in the novel, Edwin Drood had been in a dinner and he had left the dinner and that's kind of how it ended. They weren't sure what happened if he was going to do it. So, 

Robyn Bell: and so Rupert Holmes had to recreate this ending. 

Melodie Dickerson: He did. Okay. But there are many people who have decided over the years, they've thought about what would happen? Did he live, did he die? So that. In essence it's Dick was the starting point, but what was created as something really wholly different because he took the characters and then here's the fun part. So what we're seeing is a show within a show, we're seeing the Music Hall Royale, which is kind of this wacky crazy zany group of people that are getting together to put on the show. And when you see the show, it will be the first time it's ever been presented. 

Robyn Bell: I see. 

Melodie Dickerson: So they're all a little nervous and they're all very happy. So they're greeting the audiences they come in and saying, hello. So it's a very interesting thing. It's a show within a show. So every single character is a member of the Royal Music Hall that's their name of their person, but then they play one of the Dickens characters. 

Robyn Bell: I see. That's very interesting. 

Melodie Dickerson: So they have to figure out who they are as their character. I would say Grace, her name is Angela Prysock, and she plays the Princess Puffer. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. So you are a real person in the musical and you are also a character in the musical that is within the musical. 

Grace Gustufson: Yes.

Robyn Bell: Okay. Grace. 

Grace Gustufson: So tom was definitely a learning curve for me having to decipher Angela and the Princess Puffer because they're very opposite. Angela's like the diva she's been there forever. She's been doing shows and then the Princess Puffer well, the drug Lord basically.

Robyn Bell: Oh, okay. Good. Well, every good shows got to have a drug Lord, come on. 

Grace Gustufson: Why? Of course. 

Melodie Dickerson: But she has a backstory 

Grace Gustufson: does and she does. She does. And we find that out in act two when we come to the solution and it's actually quite sad, 

Robyn Bell: The backstory is sad, 

Melodie Dickerson: but we don't want to give it away. 

Robyn Bell: No, I, I want to be surprised. Yeah. I bought tickets today to Friday. Night's performance opening 

Melodie Dickerson: up the way that Princess Puffer interacts with John Jasper, who his name is Clive Padgett and in the Music Hall Royale, he is the leading man.

Robyn Bell: And this is Edgar Sanchez is 

Edgar Sanchez: yes. Um, just wanted to say it's super fun to be making my debut at the Suncoast culture podcast 

Yes. But playing these two parts, it's super fun. You know, it's something that I never got to do before. I never got to play the leading man or while I have I'm sorry, but I never got to feel. Like the leading man. So it's just kind of interesting to put in certain aspects. Like, you know, you can throw in some sass in there, but in reality, I'm not a sassy person.

Robyn Bell: Oh, I disagree. 

Edgar Sanchez: Oh do you?. 

Melodie Dickerson: And he's also quite lecherous in one way. So there's Clive Padgett. Who's the leading man. And he is kind of like the ladies, man is Clive Patchett very much. But as John Jasper, he's almost like a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, right? 

Edgar Sanchez: Oh yes. John Jasper is a super weird character. So if you come watch the show and even makes you uncomfortable, then that's how you know it's done correctly. 

Melodie Dickerson: And that was kind of hard for you, wasn't it?

Edgar Sanchez: Yes. It was super out of my comfort zone. I'm not really a touchy person. So, getting this experience was helpful because now I just know what I can and can't. 

Robyn Bell: Right. And I was in a social situation one time where his old fella was very handsy, you know, and I was like, whoa, it was a stranger. And like, you're like, you got to quit. The, this is not comfortable. Right. You got to kind of stand up for yourself. And so you are making people uncomfortable, being that kind of person, 

Edgar Sanchez: even the audience members boo me. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, 

Melodie Dickerson: we're expected. We want them to boo and hiss. 

Robyn Bell: Okay, good. I'll bring my best boo voice.

Melodie Dickerson: Right. Because that would have been the thing in the British Music Hall. This is the character that they love to boo and hiss. It's the love hate relationship. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. It reminds me of like, when I was little, my dad would take me to the wrestling matches and you would boo the bad guy. Right? Okay. Yeah. Should I bring signs?

Melodie Dickerson: Sure. These 

Edgar Sanchez: You can. It would make things more interesting. 

Robyn Bell: All right. Now, Ms. Dickerson, how did you pick this 

Melodie Dickerson: It is a show that I've wanted to do for a very, very long time. 

Robyn Bell: Now you said you heard the cast album in 1985. Was that when it came out,

Melodie Dickerson: that's when it came out. And then I saw a production at the University of Tampa about seven or eight years ago. And then that very same year is when this show was revived on Broadway in 2012, and I was able to see it and that was with Chita Rivera. Making her appearances Princess Puffer is Stephanie J block and Jessie Mueller. Yes, it was a phenomenal show 

Robyn Bell: but every time you see it is different, 

Melodie Dickerson: it will be different every single night ending and the audience. So I want to tell you a little thing. When we first decided to do the show, I was like, oh my gosh, this is just going to be too much for everybody to learn the seven different endings. It's just going to be too much. So I thought, well, I'll see how everybody goes and learning. And then I'll see who I feel like are the three 

Robyn Bell: you would, could reduce it down to just three endings.

Melodie Dickerson: But as time went on, I was like, you know what? They're all. So the cast literally will not know until there is somebody who announces it and they will not know until it's announced. 

Robyn Bell: How does the audience get to pick?

Melodie Dickerson: Oh, well, tell them when to go. 

Edgar Sanchez: There's going to be some cast members coming out into the audience. It's by a raise of hands. That's who they vote for. 

Melodie Dickerson: They're in different sections. And there are people that come out and they actually take the vote and they have an audience member that helps them. They write down the things, then they take it to our stage manager, what the stage manager of the show and another character. And they count up the tally and then they run around and tell the music director who has to know 

Robyn Bell: that's right. Cause I guess it would be seven different endings for the music as well.

Melodie Dickerson: And it's not the final ending of the show. We also wrap it up with, you know, there has to be a happy ending. So 

Robyn Bell: Well, unless its Westside Story, 

Melodie Dickerson: this is a happy ending.

So, we also get to vote on the characters. We want to have the happy ending, 

Robyn Bell: That's really cool. So we're, we're voting on more than one. 

Melodie Dickerson: And we're voting on something else, but I'm not going to tell you what that is. Oh, another vote on 

Robyn Bell: three things. I prefer chocolate chip cookies separately.

Melodie Dickerson: So that the voting who is the perfect lovers at the end of the show that is done by applause. So, yeah, 

Grace Gustufson: and we all had to learn lines for each partner. So I have. I think it was five different guys that could possibly be paired with. So I'd have to just pull those lines out of my back pocket.

Robyn Bell: What a challenge. 

Grace Gustufson: Yeah. It was definitely a big challenge for me, but I'm glad I've got, 

Melodie Dickerson: and not only the lines, they kind of have to come up with the acting of that and they will not know. They won't know until, the audience literally votes right there at that moment. 

Robyn Bell: That is so cool. Well, let me dig a little deeper Grace. You are now in your second year at the State College of Florida last year, you had decided you wanted to be a music major and you were doing our whole music curriculum course. And then over the summer you said, you know, I still want to be involved in music, but let me maybe pursue something else. So what are you thinking now? You want to do when you grow up. If you grow up, 

Grace Gustufson: uh, that's a great question, Dr. Bell, 

Robyn Bell: I'm good at that. 

Melodie Dickerson: You are, you definitely are. 

Grace Gustufson: I think this semester has really. Reminded me why I want to do what I want to do. And it just took it's of course, in my element. And I just love it here. The environment is so great. Ms. D. Is wonderful. 

Robyn Bell: I know. Don't you wish you could stay four years here, they show you a four-year program. You know, it was funny you say that Grace, because I probably knew when I was in sixth or seventh grade that I wanted to be a teacher, but I didn't know. I thought I want to be like a history teacher or social studies teacher, kind of like that.

I played sports, so I can maybe be a basketball coach or something like that and be like a high school history teacher. But I was always in band and then we had orchestra at my school too, and I played trumpet there and then it was a summer at a camp and I said, oh yeah, I do want to be a teacher, but I want to do. Music, not history. You know, now as look at turnout with my job, I actually do get to teach music history as well. You know, it's kind of the perfect little set, but like you, I was focused in on this. It just shifted a little bit to find, where I was going to go. And so I see that a new,

Melodie Dickerson: I want to talk about a camp. A summer music theater camp this way. That's how you met. I did. I actually met her through my daughter, Gabby, who was a counselor at the Manatee Players. And I think we decided you were probably eight, seven or eight, something like that. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Are you 19 now? 19.


Melodie Dickerson: So I knew about Grace and, I hadn't seen her in a while. Sorry, on and off. And then we had the Manasota Honor Choir two years ago and she was there and I was like, Hey, you should think about coming here. And I think she was thinking about other schools and then came here and thought, Hmm, 

Robyn Bell: I gave a talk yesterday to Pine View to their Trium music club in one of the things that I always say about SCF. Got to hammer home with them is that if you go to a really big school, like Florida State, for instance, you don't get the study with the major professor. You're sitting with a master's degree student or doctoral degree, and you don't get to sing or play in the best choir. The top band you are in the second or third group, no way you would be starring in the musical at Florida State.

Melodie Dickerson: No way. No, not, not as, not as sophomores Grace and Edgar sophomores 

Robyn Bell: second year. So you're going to pick back up in the spring when the music curriculum, is that your plan? 

Grace Gustufson: Yes.

Robyn Bell: Okay. And then we'll we lucky enough to have you for a third year, maybe 

Grace Gustufson: quite possibly 

Robyn Bell: some people on the four year program. Okay.

Melodie Dickerson: And, you know, Grace has had some challenges with her health over the years. But I think in that probably was one of the things that you were like, not sure my health situation, but you are pressing for. 

Grace Gustufson: Of course. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. You know, you'll find what suits you and my dad always says, if your job is your hobby, you're never really work a day. Of course, you never get a minute off either, but you know, to be able to get a degree and find a job and earn a living and put food on the table for your family, doing what you absolutely love to do, there's nothing better. 

Melodie Dickerson: Absolutely. 

Robyn Bell: Now, Edgar, you are also a second year student. 

Edgar Sanchez: Yes, I am a sophomore at the State College of Florida.

Robyn Bell: Yes. And both of you were in last year's show, Children of Eden and Grace. What were you last year? You were, 

Grace Gustufson: yes. It's very different from my character this year. 

Robyn Bell: Very different. 

Grace Gustufson: Funny, because I related a lot to Yona. So I, could use that in what I was building up my character. This year's character was very hard for me because I'm not a drug Lord. So 

Melodie Dickerson: nor a bit of an older lady, who's had a tough life. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Well, it's good though, to learn these different characters and the extreme differences that Ms. D is really providing for all you guys. Yeah. And then, so Edgar, what are you going to be when you grow up?

Edgar Sanchez: , I will be on Broadway when I grow up.

Robyn Bell: There you go. Saying, and I will be on Broadway. 

Edgar Sanchez: It's just something that I wanted to do all my life. 

Robyn Bell: And you don't mean like an usher? You mean you're going to be on Broadway 

Edgar Sanchez: on the stage performing. So 

Robyn Bell: how old were you when you decided that's what you wanted to do? Or do you remember an incident you were in a particular show and you're like, I have to do this forever.

Edgar Sanchez: Yes. So it was, I think at the beginning of my junior year, When I started doing real theater. So we did a show called Radium Girls at my old high school. That's when it clicked. I was like, oh, this is super fun. And you know, people actually get paid for this. 

Robyn Bell: And what the high school did you go to? 

Edgar Sanchez: I went to Sarasota High School 

Robyn Bell: have really good productions there.

Edgar Sanchez: Yes. I was lucky enough to be a part of two productions there. So, that just boosted me up on, acting experience. And I'm very happy that I'm here now. 

Robyn Bell: I'm also taking some classes in our theater department to improve those acting experiences, right. For theater program, I should say. 

Edgar Sanchez: This semester, I wanted to include every aspect of musical theater, which is singing, dancing, and acting. So I thought that getting training on those three aspects were super important for my future. 

Robyn Bell: Are you a good dancer? 

Edgar Sanchez: I will get there. 

Melodie Dickerson: He is. He's without somebody with a training from being a child to now Edgar's made he's fantastic Jagger. And interestingly, you asked me about last year, an Edgar. I met via FaceTime. Oh, you know, that's how I met most of the students last year. And they sent in, I had no idea and Edgar in Children of Eden, he was Noah act two, but he also understudied Father, which was huge. And Father was having some health issues , when we were rehearsing. And I remember one day Edgar came and I was like, I don't really know Edgar. And he was doing well with what he was doing, but he was, I was like, Edgar, you gotta fill in today with the understudy. He kept them there. He didn't use this book. Everything was memorized. I was like, 

Robyn Bell: where this superstar come from? 

Melodie Dickerson: Snap, snap you know what you're doing? So, that's why I knew I could entrust him with the role of John Jasper Clive Paget, because he already had proven it.

Robyn Bell: Very cool. 

Melodie Dickerson: And he's taking lessons with Mark Lubas and, just really both Grace and Edgar have just vocally improved they sound fantastic. 

Robyn Bell: Absolutely. Now Ms. D, there's a lot that goes into putting on a musical. In addition to everybody learning their lines and learning their songs. You've got costuming, you have set pieces. So talk to us, this is a period piece, right? 

Melodie Dickerson: It's, it's set in 1892 in Colostrum, England. And as I said, these are members of a theater troupe. So would this show within a show? We're saying that, you know, maybe these folks, they do their best. They really. Act. I mean, they really act if you know what I mean, it's going to have an overact, overacting, melodramatic acting, and we have two chairman that kind of keep the proceedings going. But in any show that we do here, there are many. Other design professionals that we have in last night, we had our first run of the entire show and we had all of our designers here and it was great. We had the lighting designer here. We had the sound designer here. We had the tech designer who also does the set. We had our costumers here. Our choreographer was here and of course, musical director and accompanist we're here. 

Robyn Bell: Now, you had some help with all the costuming of we we've had some very nice partners in this. 

Melodie Dickerson: Yes. Maxine Johnson, slow cer, who is an alumni of here and has helped us with, assisting in choreography before is also a costumer. And, I have reached out into the community and gone to other sources, uh, Sarasota Players, of course, our theater program island players. And they've loaned us some costumes cheap. 

Robyn Bell: Nice as that. We didn't have to clean them for us. 

Melodie Dickerson: That's right. And then we've, purchased a few things along the way and we've had to get wigs and multiple ways.

Robyn Bell: Now what about like the set pieces? I saw backstage a really one of these cool sofas. 

Melodie Dickerson: So most of our set and prop pieces are loaned to us by the Asolo Repertory Theater. 

Robyn Bell: They're so good to us.. And you know, I'm going to say here, they're actually borrowing stuff from us right now, too. So this goes two ways. They are they're in production of Hair and they have a whole scene where they're doing like a drum circle and they needed congos and bongos, and we just happened to have a plethora of them. So, yeah, it's nice. It's, that's a two-way street. 

Melodie Dickerson: It really is. And they let us come in there and choose what we would like to use and then pick it up and take it back. So we have that, we're also borrowing some set pieces from our SCF Theater Program, and we're very grateful to them for that. And then we've gotten a few things ourselves. Because of the way and the nature of this show within a show, there are backdrops and there's curtains and there's scenes in front of curtains and quick shifts. So it's not like, okay, we're creating a certain locale. Like let's say we're on the farm in Oklahoma. You know, it's a different kind of a thing.

Robyn Bell: Well, and I know we talked with Edgar and Grace about their characters and their roles, but there's another really interesting role that, when I teach music appreciation, we used to always have this chapter on classical opera. And we talk about the pants role, which was, they needed a, like a young boy and so they would get a girl cause she could sing high and dress her in, a man's eye, you know, cross dress. Right. And we have a character like this in the show 

Melodie Dickerson: we do. And of course we talked about the title of the show is the Mystery of Edwin Drood. And we have an Edwin Drood, who is played by Mia Freeman. 

Robyn Bell: Mia Freeman is here with us. Hey Mia. 

Mia Freeman: Hi. 

Robyn Bell: Good to have you here.

Mia Freeman: And to be here. 

Melodie Dickerson: And Mia has already had a lot of experience as cross-dressing cause you sang with the Sarasota Youth Opera for six years. 

Mia Freeman: Yeah. Six years. Every single opera that I was in, I only played boys. 

Robyn Bell: You're an expert. We're so lucky to have you here. so obviously you sing in your normal voice, you're just dressed differently than maybe you would 

Mia Freeman: yes. A hundred percent. 

Robyn Bell: You didn't cut your hair? 

Mia Freeman: No, 

Melodie Dickerson: no. In fact, or wears several wigs, which I don't want to give it away, but she has to wear several wigs for different characters. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. So what's the name of your real character and then the name of your show in a show character. 

Mia Freeman: So my main character is Alice Nutting. She is a world famous male impersonator. She is a very interesting diva, but then we have Edwin Drood who is, very possessive, 

Melodie Dickerson: He is the nephew and received pronunciation of John Jasper, who we met Edgar Sanchez earlier he's nephew. And, there is kind of a love, hate relationship because 

Robyn Bell: what's a nevue 

Melodie Dickerson: nephew. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Oh, I thought so. Well, at first I thought that's gotta be nephew, but then when you said it again, I said, maybe I have this wrong of you. I go, that's an English pronunciation. 

Melodie Dickerson: And that's another thing. All of these students have had to learn how to do received pronunciation and some have had to learn how to do Cockney, but 

Robyn Bell: Ooh, what's that? 

Melodie Dickerson: Wow. That's level class. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, I see. It's a different dialect or bit again. Well, I have to say when I watch movies that have this, these sometimes I can't understand. I started, they really speaking English. I have no idea what this person said. 

Melodie Dickerson: Yeah. Mia, talk about how it's been. Play a boy. Now, Edwin Drood is engaged to Rosa Bud, and that's Lylyana Brych.

Robyn Bell: Hey Lyly.Lyly's here with us and you play . 

Lylyana Brych: Yes. I'm betrothed to Edwin Drood as Rosa Bud. 

Robyn Bell: Rosa Bud. That's a great name. Perfect. 

Melodie Dickerson: And they are betrothed together, but we find out it early on that their parents got them together. 

Mia Freeman: They were arranged, 

Melodie Dickerson: arranged marriage. So they're sweet friends, but they don't really do it for each other. 

Robyn Bell: I see. 

Mia Freeman: Maybe if we weren't arranged maybe we would have been different, but I don't know 

Melodie Dickerson: right 

Robyn Bell: now, Lyly, are you also another character as well? You're in the theater troupe and okay. So tell us about that.

Lylyana Brych: So my main character, she is Deidre Peregrine. And she's actually in big competition with Alice Nutting, cause she's also a big diva and they secretly just hate each other. 

Mia Freeman: We don't like each other that much 

Robyn Bell: in the show that you're producing, you have to be 

Lylyana Brych: in the show. Dierdre plays Rosa Bud. And she's the ingenue. She's the sweet, innocent, pure, I mean, maybe not so innocent, but 

Melodie Dickerson: In real life, what is Dierdre like 

Lylyana Brych: she gets around she's 

Robyn Bell: oh, 

Lylyana Brych: she's, uh, uh, uh, She 

Robyn Bell: gets around. Got it. She 

Melodie Dickerson: goes lately. 

Robyn Bell: Understand what you mean? 

Melodie Dickerson: She knows all of the men in the cast on a first name basis. 

Robyn Bell: Got it. 

Melodie Dickerson: In the music hall. 

Lylyana Brych: So when she acts, she act,

Robyn Bell: this is interesting for you.

Lylyana Brych: Yes, 

Robyn Bell: We were talking about last year's production of, Children of Eden and how different those characters were to what you're playing in this show. Right? 

Melodie Dickerson: Lyly wasn't in last year's production. 

Lylyana Brych: This is my first musical 

Melodie Dickerson: musical production ever.

Mia Freeman: It's insane. It's insane. I don't understand. 

Melodie Dickerson: And so funny as we said with Grace who played a young girl and now is playing an old lady last year's musical Mia played the old mama Noah, the old lady, mom and Noah. And in this one, she's playing a 17 year old boy, 

Mia Freeman: but I still get to play the last song. 

Melodie Dickerson: That's true. How did you manage that? 

Mia Freeman: I don't know Ms. D. You're the one who cast me. 

Melodie Dickerson: I did. 

Robyn Bell: Alright, so give me real quick. Give me some dialogue in your English accent. Maybe you have a little scene you can do together so I can hear the two of you.

Oh, I can English it out. Okay. 

Mia Freeman: I'll even talk a little loud for you Ms. D.

Melodie Dickerson: Thank you. 

Mia Freeman: We spent a Brighton chatting afternoon and these silent tombs, a my own betrothed. Rosa. We are not legally bound to marriage. 

Lylyana Brych: Then Eddie dearest lets us change to brother and sister from this day forth. 

Mia Freeman: Never to be husband and wife 

Lylyana Brych: never 

Mia Freeman: I'm on a bound to confess. This thought does not originate with you alone. 

Lylyana Brych: I know dear one. You have not been truly happy with engagement nor have I 

Mia Freeman: I'm so sorry. Rosa 

Lylyana Brych: and I for you. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, that's great. Wait, wait, wait.

Melodie Dickerson: and then they go into the most gorgeous duet. And I listened to Rupert Holmes. Talk about this. He was like, I literally wrote this for two sopranos. In that, style of singing and the harmonies are gorgeous. Just beautiful. 

Robyn Bell: Speaking of the music now, when you're in rehearsals, you're most. Rehearsing with the piano accompanist, but soon you're going to be performing and rehearsing with a actual live orchestra. So Ms. D tell us about the pit orchestra this year and the role that it plays in the show. 

Melodie Dickerson: Well, it's conducted by Rex Willis and he's the music director along with our assistant music director and our full-time class accompanist, Ms. Diane Varnadore. And it's a 12 piece orchestra on top of that. So we have strings, we have winds, we have brass, we have percussion and 

Robyn Bell: actually on the pit, like Neel has an elevator and they're 

Melodie Dickerson: 10 feet below 

Robyn Bell: 10 feet. 

Melodie Dickerson: And, already you all, both have gone into rehearse with it. How was thatLyly going to rehearse with the orchestra 

Lylyana Brych: that was surreal? I've never. Ever experienced anything like that, and it actually helps you, while you're singing, it gets you into character. There are musical cues that the piano doesn't give you that

Robyn Bell: percussion hits different sounds 

Lylyana Brych: and it gives the whole feeling of the time period and everything. It just all just flows in and it's amazing. It's surreal.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. In tough too, though. There's a balance issue because when you're just with the piano one person, but when you have a 12 piece orchestra and you have a singer, Zoe I'll be miked. But I know as a orchestra conductor, that does stuff with choir and I've, I've conducted many musicals before it is, you've got to stay down, down, down. So it's tough and you have to project over that. Right? And I hope both of you are taking good care of your voices 

Melodie Dickerson: and they know how to resonate. They know how to resonate their voices. And we have Dorian Boyd. Who's our sound designer who does a phenomenal job with getting everybody miked up and things like that. But, I think. Another thing that the music director and the orchestra, especially in this show, there's, like little intermediate hits last year in Children of Eden. It was kind of mostly sung with just a little bit of talking. Right. So it was like just continuous. 

Robyn Bell: This was dialogue dialogue, right?

Mia Freeman: Yes. 

Robyn Bell: Very different. 

Melodie Dickerson: And then as we've talked about earlier, the interactive and the unpredictable nature, and there will be unpredictability. 

Robyn Bell: Well, I was sitting here wondering, because as Melodie explained to us, there's seven different options of the audience votes on how all this turns out. But Mia, as Edwin Drood are you involved in the ending at all? 

Mia Freeman: But I can't disclose it. You have to come and see the show to fitness. 

Melodie Dickerson: I like that. You cannot disclose, 

Robyn Bell: as I've said, I know she's present. Perfect. I have tickets for opening night. 

Mia Freeman: Ooh. 

Robyn Bell: I do front row center.

Melodie Dickerson: I want to say that all of the students we've interviewed today are really. Working at a high level vocally. 

Robyn Bell: Well they're all second year students, 

Melodie Dickerson: second year students. In terms of Mia, I, your character, this is in many, even though it's soprano range, but then it's also high mix belt voice.

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Mia Freeman: It's really fun. It's really fun. 

Melodie Dickerson: But, that means that you have to stay focused and in, good health and hydrated 

Mia Freeman: a hundred percent, 

Melodie Dickerson: right. 

Mia Freeman: A hundred percent 

Melodie Dickerson: and Lylyana is singing in like almost a coloratura soprano range. 

Robyn Bell: That sounds fancy. Are you one of the seven choices I could vote for you to be the killer.

So secretive around here. 

Mia Freeman: Let's try to get all the secrets. 

Melodie Dickerson: You mean? You think she would kill her own betrothed. I don't know. I don't know. 

Lylyana Brych: Someone's so innocent and pure as myself. Kill my own true Ned. 

Melodie Dickerson: Oh, I don't know. Perhaps you would. 

Robyn Bell: Well, I get to decide because I'm an audience. 

Melodie Dickerson: Yes. You work as does this friend. There is one scene. I know Edgar talked about it about being uncomfortable with touching, but there is one scene in which John Jasper and Rosa Bud John Jasper is Rosa Buds music tutor.

Robyn Bell: Oh, 

Melodie Dickerson: her singing teacher. 

Lylyana Brych: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: I can get uncomfortable 

Melodie Dickerson: and music. And he's John Jasper is Edwin's uncle. 

Robyn Bell: Well, so there's a lot of different, am I going to be able to keep all this straight? 

Melodie Dickerson: Hopefully I'm. But I wanted Lily to talk a little bit about that scene. The Name of Love Moon Fallen how challenging that was to block and learn and emotionally come up with.

Lylyana Brych: Well, first off, when I received the music for a Name of Love, I just looked at it and my eyes just flew open. I was like, oh my gosh, it's just so much in just one song. And it's 

Robyn Bell: so many notes, 

Lylyana Brych: so much everything. It's like a little everything. 

Robyn Bell: The range and the jumps of the 

Lylyana Brych: range goes all the way up to a B natural

Robyn Bell: acrobatic song for you. Yeah. 

Lylyana Brych: Very, very challenging. I had to work very hard on this song. As far as emotionally, I can't sing this song without connecting to something emotionally because of how 

Melodie Dickerson: melodramatic. 

Lylyana Brych: Yes. 

Melodie Dickerson: That's the words.

Lylyana Brych: It's a lot of like anger, passion and intrigued hunt all in. Once 

Melodie Dickerson: it kind of comes out of nowhere because most of the show we're laughing.

Lylyana Brych: Yes. 

Melodie Dickerson: Even though it's a murder mystery, 

Robyn Bell: it's like comedy, like the audience is gonna laugh and, but still be intrigued. 

Melodie Dickerson: We hope they laugh. We're counting on them, laughing 

Mia Freeman: Please laugh, please. 

Lylyana Brych: This is the song where there is no laughing. It's more of like a, you know, hopefully the audience will be at the edge of their seats. It's so emotional. Me and Edgar have. The staging was difficult, so difficult. We have to walk here. We have to walk there. We have to display like, sort of, how would you call it? I can't, I don't know how much I'm allowed to say, 

Melodie Dickerson: well, this is where the touching element became involved. And because they have to appear that they're attracted, but not attracted to each other, that, that kind of thing.

Lylyana Brych: So in my part, I have to be completely terrified yet disgusted, but somewhat intrigued and how I still want him or maybe not. It all depends. You just have to come and see. 

Robyn Bell: I'm so confused. 

Lylyana Brych: You will only know and see, come and see the storyline and everything. 

Melodie Dickerson: Right. And then I'm not going to say because Mia. It has different tracks in her thing. And it involves her wearing multiple wigs. That's all. I'm going to say 

Mia Freeman: amount of costume changes I have is insane 

Melodie Dickerson: yes, 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, I can imagine, right. You're a girl in this scene, but you're a boy, 

Mia Freeman: Lou flops. It's insane 

Lylyana Brych: and the attire. It's not just like regular clothes you can throw on. It's like corsets and straps everywhere. Like

Robyn Bell: man, I didn't set up for this. Okay. Let me ask you this. Cause we. Open this new addition to our music building the $7 million space. And now the concert choir chamber choir music theater ensemble that you have a dedicated space. How has that changed Mia since you were in this class and then the production last year, and obviously Ms. Dickerson, you have been here for 18 years now. So how has the addition of this new space for you changed, your ability to, put on this production? 

Melodie Dickerson: Well, first, what do you all think about. The space and the ambience in the new choir room.

Mia Freeman: I love it. 

Lylyana Brych: My favorite part is how live the room is 

Melodie Dickerson: just unreal. And we also have a refurbished and restored 1928 Steinway piano, which is just beautiful, gorgeous tone. And that sets all the difference. And then we have this dedicated space. So as we know before, eight ensembles, we're sharing one rehearsal room, right? So it was neither fish nor fowl. It was not live enough for us. It was to live for you, 

Robyn Bell: That's right acoustically. It was not good for either of our groups. And now you have a great coastal space and we were able to put carpet in some more sound panels. And now we have a great acoustical space. So it worked out for both. But I remember when you were doing costumes and props and you would have to like hike all the way over to building 9A and go through that, like those corridors and that labyrinth of 

Melodie Dickerson: light. And then it was in the old library and then was out in storage pods. And um, 

Mia Freeman: oh, I remember 

Robyn Bell: now you have this beautiful storage space. That's just right there. Right? 

Melodie Dickerson: Is, it's hard to remember how awful and I don't even want to remember. Lyly was one of the people that helped me last spring start to categorize. And it took me all summer when we got all the things out to sort and go through everything.

Robyn Bell: And now when you need something in your running notes, in your, in your script and in your score, you go, yep. I have that. I know right where it is. And it was like, 

Melodie Dickerson: Then I know that I, I can't get it, but I, before I would think, oh, I know I have that, but it could be any number of pods or places or rooms. And now we all know where it is. And then that way, every day I can open it up, they can go in there, then get rehearsal skirts. They can leave their stuff there. 

Mia Freeman: one thing that I was really happy about was Monday rehearsal. We were going over one scene that I needed a skirt for, and I completely forgot my skirt to put backstage. So I did a quick little jog. 

Robyn Bell: Almost ran me over. 

Mia Freeman: I'm sorry, Dr. Bell. I was going to speed racer. 

Robyn Bell: I want to say something else about Lylyana because. You know, we, have this thing Ms. D. We always have where the students are kind of in the hallways and they get the laughing and giggling and they get really loud and it interrupts, your lessons or if I'm meeting with somebody and I was in the faculty lounge making copies, and I heard this screaming from the new choir room and I was about to go velociraptor and pull a Miss D. And I was like, oh, screaming in here, keep your voice down. And Lyly goes, no, it's what I do in the show. I'm rehearsing. I'm practicing. I was like, Oh, okay. Well then 

Lylyana Brych: at one who gets in trouble, like, 

Melodie Dickerson: and I think it happened in the Neel lobby of one of our professors. Yeah. Katherine Bzura was walking through there over to the art gallery and she hurts.

Robyn Bell: She was like calling public safety, 

Melodie Dickerson: call 9 1 1.

Robyn Bell: That's pretty funny. 

Lylyana Brych: it was when we'd Edgar or yeah, Jasper and Rosa were doing their Name of love scenes. 

Robyn Bell: That's hilarious. So, you know, full disclosure, I've actually known Mia and Mia's father for quite some time. Mia's mom and dad, Matt, and Tina Freeman run a local magazine, Edible Sarasota. And through my Pops Orchestra, your dad, Matthew has been doing all of our graphic design work for many years and it's, fabulous. And I had no idea he was your dad. I mean, somebody else for the Pops took care of all that they would just come to me and go, here's the design. Oh my God. That's great. That's great. And after a couple of years, I was like, who is doing all this great work? And then we here at the college had the opportunity to sort of outsource our graphics. And I said, oh, you have to use this guy for the Pops. And he did all of our graphic artwork, maybe starting three or four years ago. And then. Mia comes to school here. 

Melodie Dickerson: Well, he sent me an email one day. He said, my daughter is graduating from Riverview high School. She's been singing with Sarasota Youth Opera for six years? And he says I would like her to think about your music program. Cause I think it's great. And so then Mia and I, again, it's the face timing and she sent in her video audition. 

Mia Freeman: I was trying to think of the one show The Christmas Carol. My dad, when I graduated from Riverview, he was like, well, I do work for SCF and you need to see this cause I want you to go into the musical theater program. You're going to love it. And I'm like, okay. Like, I do want to see it. I literally fell in love with it and I'm like, oh, I need to do musical theater. I need to do musical theater. 

Robyn Bell: Great show. 

Mia Freeman: It was so good. It was. So 

Melodie Dickerson: now we're back to Dickinson. 

Robyn Bell: That's right. Full circle. How about that? So, Mia, here, graduated from Riverview High School. You had been in the Sarasota Youth Opera program. You're now here at SCF. Your music major. You're taking all the music, curriculum classes here. And if you had the. The picture of a perfect job for you in 10 years. Mia, what are you doing in music? How are you feeding your family? 

Mia Freeman: I've always had a passion for performing. It's just the adrenaline rush. So I would really like to be on stage in the next 10 years, but if all else fails, I would love to become either a music teacher or an elementary school teacher.

Robyn Bell: Okay. Elementary music. Okay. Or maybe middle school or high school? Chorus director. Cool. 

Melodie Dickerson: Tell them what opportunity you have in the spring. 

Mia Freeman: Oh yes. I was at the Sarasota Youth Opera, and I've been in touch with my old, my Maestro George, and he reached out to me last week and he was like, me and Maestro Jessie Sam, miss Martha, we're all doing humongous shows and we are going to need help. I'm going to need someone there with me for youth opera and prep. So starting January, February, March, I'm going to be working at the Sarasota Opera House, helping teach youth opera 

Robyn Bell: they're in need now you've had the extensive, practice and opera and experience in opera and here you've done musicals. Did you do musicals at Riverview High School?

Mia Freeman: No, actually, I don't really count it, but like the first musical I did do was Beauty and the Beast junior and elementary school, I played Miss Potts. I played Ms. Potts, but after that I started going to youth opera. I think it was six or seventh grade. My first opera was Brundebar and my last opera was Brundebar and it was a lot of fun. And it was just an amazing opportunity.

Robyn Bell: I'm curious though, at your age where you 19 20, 20, you're 20 halfway to 40 congratulations. So you can see these experiences. What to you is the difference between opera performance and musical theater performance?

Mia Freeman: I was actually talking to Ms. D. About that the other day. So personally the fact that I sang opera for so many years. Don't get me wrong. I love opera, but there's just a little part of my heart that just loves musical theater a little bit more ever since I was a little kid. I've loved musical theater.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. You think it's maybe the melodies? 

Mia Freeman: I honestly, I can't put my finger on it, but I can develop a character a lot faster and a lot easier than I can with classical opera. And I, it might be the languages. It might just be the music there's that imagination type of sequence that you can have during musical theater. And I love that, 

Melodie Dickerson: but I trained them, all of my students in the classical technique, but then also to be able to put that technique to work for them in Broadway stylings. So, that they can belt healthily, that they can sing in other styles, healthily if their voices are attuned to that way. now in Lily's case, I think she was just a surprise because she came in last year and. Just kind of by happenstance, she sent me an email, I think maybe I'd like to take some music classes and we again, talked on the phone gadget, you know, and she's like, well, I think I can sing something from the Little Mermaid. I was like, okay. Right. And then you sent that, but she had a beautiful. Just crystal and kind of voice 

Lylyana Brych: COVID right. right when I sent that, 

Melodie Dickerson: I didn't know. But then she came and she started taking voice lessons. Never had any voices as, although you'd sung a lot with your church choirs and things like that. And then just kind of blossomed last year. Showcase in the spring, she said, well, she said, I want to do musical theater in the spring and then did the showcase. And she and Edgar actually did a scene from Phantom of the Opera. 

Robyn Bell: I clapped so hard. My hands were bleeding. It was amazing. And I actually told Ms. D I said, you have to do Phantom of the Opera next year, if we have Lyly and Edgar. And she explained to me how we are able to so much fun, but we're not able to because it's not available.

Melodie Dickerson: at the time I still, I had no idea what show I was doing at the time. And you asked me, how do I know? I don't know. I just know I've assessed the people. And I thought, even I told you how much I have loved the show and I've listened to it on and off through the years. And some of the songs I've given to students. I felt like the style of the show was so important after COVID because the first song is called. There You Are. And it's the casts love song to the audience of you're actually here in a seat to listen to us and it's all about, oh, how wonderful it is that you're here. And you're going to, get in the opening number is just so effervescent. And, 

Robyn Bell: So Lyly you're in your second year here, you're a music major. You're doing the curriculum. You're going to transfer to finish your music degree a four year degree, and then what's in store for you. 

Lylyana Brych: Well, first question. Very good question. I first came to this program and I told Ms. D I just like singing and I want to learn how to sing. I had no idea what anything was about. I didn't know. It was possible to be a musical theater. I didn't know what all of this was just, it's just shocking. I was just like, no, everywhere. I would look. I'm like, oh my gosh, opportunity here, opportunity there.

Robyn Bell: Did you have the traditional high school experience? Like. No, I was homeschooled. So you didn't have all of that at your disposal now. So when you came here, literally it was like a whole world was open. 

Lylyana Brych: Absolutely. And then I started taking lessons with Ms. Dickerson and she helped me find my voice.

Robyn Bell: it's in there, there, I just heard it. 

Lylyana Brych: There are moments in our lesson. I'm like, Ooh, 

Robyn Bell: isn't that cool. , 

Lylyana Brych: so as the semesters go by, I would think to myself, what is next for me? What do I want to do next? And then. I finally figured out that I really just like Mia. I would really, really like to explore more performing and I want to major in vocal performance, but as well as have musical theater, a very big thing in my life.

Robyn Bell: Well, and you know what Mia said, I could be a teacher and we have a lot of these students that go through this, they get a music education degree. They even get a job. Alex Zickafoose is a really good example of this at Booker High School, but you know what they do on nights and weekends. There at the Manatee Players at the Sarasota Players, they, they are performing and they are teaching and it's feeding both sides of them. And there's a steady paycheck in benefits and retirement and that kind of thing. So don't ever give up on either route because you can do both, even if you go into performance, and Ms. D. will tell you when you get good at singing and people go, wow, she's really good. Guess what? Teach me what you know. Yeah.

And so performing 

Lylyana Brych: people be glad to sing. 

Robyn Bell: That's right. That's right. Because it's another source of income you perform, you teach, you create, you write music, you put it all together and don't let anybody tell you, you can't make any money at this career. It's just not true. It's just not true.

Melodie Dickerson: So I'm kind of curious both from Mia and Lyly's viewpoint because this is a show unlike. Any that I've ever done here. I'm curious from both of you, how you feel about the process and how it's gone and what you've learned. 

Mia Freeman: Well, one thing I can a hundred percent say for sure is I now know how to walk like a man that took some time 

Robyn Bell: they walked differently, 

Melodie Dickerson: hands 

Mia Freeman: and hands. I'm not doing puppy dog hands anymore, which is good, but I think because Children of Eden was my first musical theater show and opera and musical theater, completely different things. And I remember when we first started. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I was amazed, but also very nervous because I was like, oh, this is a big show. There is a lot going on in this show. It's not like Children of Eden. This is a whole other playing ground. And the one thing I can a hundred percent say is I love the fact that it is breaking the fourth wall and that it's improv because you can make a mistake. But you can a hundred percent fix it, just like that and make the audience laugh with you and, and have that experience.

Melodie Dickerson: That's something I think the students have had to really learn. It's okay. And I can't freeze. I have to go on and I can make something out of it. And that's a different style. It's very presentational. It's not like that for real. I told them it's sometimes like, , you know, it's the overacting, the melodramatic acting. But I've noticed, and maybe Lyly you can speak to this, the engagement of all of the students in learning and what I've seen you doing on your off times. 

Lylyana Brych: Yeah. Oh, my God, 

Robyn Bell: maybe, Lyly, you didn't realize how much work when you said, I think I want to be a musical theater. 

Lylyana Brych: You don't understand. After I was given the role of Rosa, I got the script and I started looking through it and I started reading it and I was like, oh my God.

Robyn Bell: You have to memorize all those 

Lylyana Brych: and never being in a musical theater show before, this is a whole different thing. The whole process is nothing that I've ever thought of it. The whole process of putting on a show. I don't know how Misty D does it. I just, 

Robyn Bell: it's amazing.

Mia Freeman: I remember. All last year before you were a music major, when you were just taking some music classes and you wanted to go into nursing.

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Mia Freeman: Remember that? 

Lylyana Brych: Yeah. I mean, I had a showcase and I sang one song at the showcase, but I didn't know that a musical was like this.

Mia Freeman: I remember in fall, we were talking and she was like, I just, I love music and I want to do it so badly. And I was like, then do it. And she's like, no, I've, never done it before. I'm like Lyly, honestly. And she's like, Mia, you are just so talented. I can't do it. And I was like, Lyly, don't doubt yourself. Just do it. It's so much fun. That's all you need to think about is how fun it is 

Melodie Dickerson: and she's done it and 

Mia Freeman: she has done it. Lyly has amazed me Lyly has improved so much over the last year that has taken me over five years to improve. And that's just remarkable.

Melodie Dickerson: But what I see, they get together on their own. They run scenes, they run lines, they get together and they really push each other. And once we got to the second half of the show where we get into so much interaction, they've had to really step it up. And, sometimes I wish we could film the outtakes of the rehearsals and they'll be fun. But on the other hand, I'm glad that we haven't. So no one gets in trouble. 

Robyn Bell: Well, All of our musical productions here at SCF, but kind of, as you were saying, Melodie, this one from really the start and I'm an outsider, just observing it's at this real vibe and excitement to it. Like I haven't seen in my 12 years here at SCF and I have my tickets for opening night, which is Friday, November 5th, at 7:30. Others can also see it on Saturday, November 6th at 7:30 and then Sunday matinee, November 7th at 2:00 PM. All performances are at the SCF Neel Performing Arts Center. you can get your tickets at the door, or what you should do is get them ahead of time by going to slash Neel. Or through the Suncoast Culture Club, Calendar of Events page on our website. And I want to thank Melodie and Mia and Edgar andLyly and Grace for joining me today to share the story behind this production. And we hope to see all of you at the show, 

Melodie Dickerson: the Mystery of Edwin Drood.