Performances of the Lawrence musical production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” began this week, featuring 29 students in the cast. Annette Thornton, a Lawrence Fellow in the Department of Theatre Arts, directs the musical. “This show is really neat in that it is a ‘show within a show,'” said Thornton. Each student in the production plays two characters. One is an actor in the Music Hall Royale, a Victorian musical troupe, and the other is the character that the actor portrays in the musical “Edwin Drood,” which the Music Hall Royale is performing. “It can get quite confusing keeping the two worlds straight,” Thornton said. “It is challenging, but it is also a lot of fun.” The story follows John Jasper, the “Jekyll and Hyde” choirmaster who is madly in love with Miss Rosa Bud, his student who is engaged to Jasper’s nephew, Edwin Drood. When Drood mysteriously disappears one stormy Christmas Eve, suspicions arise and questions linger as to whether Drood has been murdered or simply has run off. The play is based off of Charles Dickens’ last – and unfinished – novel. Thanks to the absence of an ending, the audience gets to decide how the story ends. The audience votes at different times throughout the musical, setting up 21 different endings that could be played out, all which had to be rehearsed and practiced. “We spent one practice just going through all the different endings, and it took an hour,” Thornton remarked. Matt Murphy, who plays the chairman of the Music Hall Royale, agreed. “I think the audience is in for a fun-filled and unforgettable evening,” he said. “Even though we’ve entered the dress rehearsal stages, it’s still very difficult to know what the final product will be like since we haven’t had an audience yet.” Songwriter and composer Rupert Holmes wrote the musical adaptation of Dickens’ work. Holmes has a different history than most playwrights. “This is the only musical he has written,” said music director Jacob Allen. “In the past, he has written many popular songs, such as the ‘Pi¤a Colada’ song and many songs for Christina Aguilera.” But don’t expect this musical to be full of simple pop songs. “The music is quite beautiful and complex,” said Thornton. Megan Flod plays the part of Rosa Bud. “The musical has been a riot for all of those involved so far,” she said. “We are dying to have an audience to perform to.” Brad Grimmer, who plays villain John Jasper, added, “Although it is a murder mystery, it is also a musical comedy. It is very funny.” “These students are just amazing,” said Thornton. “They have worked very hard on this.” Tickets are free for LU students, $5 for non-LU students, and $10 for adults and are available at the LU Box Office. Remaining performances are Friday and Sunday night at 8 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.