New York — THE Mystery of Edwin Drood'' has made the transfer from Central Park to Broadway with its exuberance -- and its excesses -- intact. Apart from a rich score by adapter-composer Rupert Holmes, the attractions of the mock-Victorian frolic at the Imperial Theatre begin with George Rose's grandly comic performance as the chairman-impresario of the occasion. Mr. Rose masters the ceremonies, gossips, takes on the role of a missing thespian, and explains the shreds of plot Mr. Holmes has extracted fro m Charles Dickens's last and unfinished novel. The slightly revised score is strongly sung by Betty Buckley (Edwin), Cleo Laine (Princess Puffer), Patti Cohenour (Rosa Bud), Howard McGillin (dastardly John Jaspers), and the vocal ensemble. Among the supporting players, let's say a word for Joe Grifasi's Bazzard, who seizes on his big chance to rise from obscurity for a glorious moment in the limelight.
As one of the gimmicks of his multiple-choice mystery-within-a-musical, Mr. Holmes imagines that the artistes of the seedy British seaside Music Hall Royale are putting on their own fanciful version of ``The Mystery of Edwin Drood.'' The other gimmick is to have audience votes settle various matters, including the question of Who killed Edwin Drood? -- if indeed he was done in. At the preview I attended, dewy Rosa Bud was elected murderess.
Due chiefly to Wilford Leach's anything-for-a-laugh direction, the New York Shakespeare Festival parody tends to get even broader on Broadway than it did in Central Park. Mr. Leach seems determined to explore the lowest depths of low camp. If he's not careful, he will give hamminess a bad name. However, it should in fairness be noted that, besides exercising their franchise with noisy enthusiasm, the Imperial Theatre electorate gave ``The Mystery of Edwin Drood'' a rousing vote of confidence.
Whatever its accomplishments and failings, the burlesque of Dickens adds to New York's current array of musical shows, virtually all of which are suited for family audiences. Even Graciela Daniele's opium-den ballet for ``Edwin Drood'' is relatively mild stuff by today's permissive standards. In many respects, ``The Mystery of Edwin Drood'' might even have amused Queen Victoria. As usual, Radio City Music Hall has made the biggest splash in the line of holiday entertainment for the family. Its ``Magn ificent Christmas Spectacular'' (through Jan. 9) includes a ``Nutcracker Suite'' with 32 toy bears of assorted sizes and a tiny ballerina. As previously reported here, the Rockettes parade in close-order drill as the wooden soldiers and ride a carousel just for kicks -- high kicks, that is.
``Edwin Drood'' apart, Broadway hasn't yet come up with anything new for the holiday season. ``Jerry's Girls,'' starring Dorothy Loudon, Chita Rivera, and Leslie Uggams in a Jerry Herman retrospective, has been postponed due to an injury sustained by Miss Loudon. Meanwhile, such famous Kenneth Grahame characters as Mole, Water Rat, Toad, and Badger are testing the local climate as ``Wind in the Willows'' previews at the Nederlander Theatre before a delayed Dec. 19 premi`ere.
Otherwise, the Christmas season is being welcomed by musicals that have seen other holidays come and go. The world of entertainment is celebrated by ``A Chorus Line'' (Shubert), the longest-running show in Broadway history, and ``42nd Street'' (Majestic) with its hundred tapping feet. Elsewhere along the main stem, ``Cats,'' in its fourth year, keeps meowing and wowing customers of all ages at the Winter Garden; ``Big River,'' another Tony Award winner, keeps rolling along at the Eugene O'Neill; and rai ndrops keep happily falling on ``Singin' in the Rain,'' at the Gershwin.
Off Broadway pleasures include the delightfully spoofing ``Dames at Sea'' (Lamb's), the comically scary ``Little Shop of Horrors'' (Orpheum), ``The Golden Land'' (Second Avenue) salute to the Jewish-American immigrant experience, and of course, ``The Fantasticks'' (Sullivan Street), which opened in 1965 and has been accumulating new generations of fans ever since. -- 30 --