The Mystery of Edwin Drood is by no means the only musical with multiple endings; Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision has ten potential contest winners and Clue functions much like the board game it’s based on (Cluedo) and the murderer, weapon, and location are picked by three audience members from a pack of cards at the beginning of the show. Drood is perhaps unique in the fact that the three significant audience votes can change the score played by the orchestra, the songs sung by the cast, and the tone of the revelations. Of the 358 possible ending combinations, the audience could be presented with anything from slapstick comedy, murderous passions, or incest.
But, how is it possible that there are well over 300 endings, decided during the production while the actors are onstage?
Paul Slevin, doctoral researcher in Maths, explains:
There are nine characters in question: six males (Jasper, Durdles, Neville, Crisparkle, Bazzard and Deputy) and 3 females (Puffer, Rosa and Helena). The audience must choose a Datchery (the detective), a Murderer and a pair of Lovers, consisting of a male and female. A character can have at most one of these roles, and the choices are subject to the following rules:
All characters are potential lovers.
The Deputy can neither be a Murderer, nor a Datchery.
Jasper, Durdles and Puffer are potentially Murderers, but cannot be Datcherys.
Neville, Crisparkle, Bazzard, Rosa and Helena can play any role.
We are interested in counting all possible choices of the three characters by the audience. Since every character is a potential lover, we may ignore rule 1 and represent what we know in the following Venn diagram:
In order to count the number of combinations, we can split the problem up into four cases:
Datchery is Male, Murderer is Male.
Datchery is Male, Murderer is Female.
Datchery is Female, Murderer is Male.
Datchery if Female, Murderer is Male.
If we look at the first case, we see that there are 3 possible Male choices of Datchery. Making a choice of Datchery removes a Male from the pool, and we are left with 5 – 1 = 4 possible choices of Male Murderer. We removed two Males from the pool, and no Females, so there are 6 – 2 = 4 Males and 3 Females remaining from which to choose a pair of lovers. In total, for case 1, there are 3*4*4*3 possible choices. Using similar logic, we can calculate the number of choices in each case. This information is represented in the following tree diagram:
By adding the numbers we get from each separate case, we see that there are 358 possible combinations.
Of course, some combinations are more popular than others. For example, during the 2012-3 Broadway revival, Bazzard was chosen as Datchery 97 times of 164 performances.