REVIEW: SOMETHING’S AFOOT

at Town Hall Arts Center

by Owen Niland

The remote manor house, a thunderstorm, dead bodies, secrets, mistaken identities – did the butler do it???  No!! He explodes on the grand staircase in the first 5 minutes of the show.

The stories of Agatha Christie are cherished by generations of readers.  The story tropes and character archetypes she grandly fostered over sixty-six novels and countless short stories have become so ingrained in the mystery genre that they’re often taken for granted.  Her plays such as And Then There Were None (a much more palatable title than the original) and the West End’s longest running play The Mousetrap, are consistent crowd pleasers the world over, and cinematic adaptations of her works range from the 1970’s low-camp productions starring Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith, to the 2017 high-camp production of Kenneth Branagh’s Murder On The Orient Express.

Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center’s production of the Agatha Christie musical parody SOMETHING’S AFOOT (by James McDonald, David Vos & Robert Gerlach, Additional Music by Ed Linderman) joyously takes these characters, stories and situations and mines them for all the laughs it can.

Each of Christie’s stock characters make an appearance in the production’s strong ensemble – the overburdened butler Clive (Eric Fry), the dewy-eyed ingénue Hope (Lynzee Lee Jones), the handsome yet mysterious stranger Geoffrey (Carter Edward Smith), the bumbling Colonel Gillweather (Tim Fishbaugh), the crusty caretaker Flint (Ben Hilzer), the mousey maid Lettie (Jane Simonds), the scheming heir apparent Nigel (Matt LaFontaine), the ageing socialite Grace (Eryn Carman), the secretive Dr. Grayburne (Tim O’Connell), and, most importantly, the meddling murder-obsessed amateur lady detective Tweed (LuAnn Buckstein) unraveling everyone’s stories.

To recount the plot of the play is, quite frankly, an exercise in futility.  Suffice to say there is a country manor, there is a thunderstorm, there are blackouts, there are secrets, and there are murders.  The ensemble’s tight comedic timing and director Bob Well’s efficient staging keep the story moving quickly, although the fun in the production is not to follow, solve, or even really understand the convoluted murder plot.  The fun here is to watch each character summarily dispatched in the most novel of ways. It’s the murders, and, to a large extent, scenic designer Michael R. Duran’s lavish set upon which they take place, that steal the show here.

The play is a “musical” in the barest of sense.  Relying on recorded tracks created by music director Donna Koplan Debreceni and musical staging (I’d hesitate to call it choreography) by Kelly Kates, the musical numbers are light-hearted segues between the murders, but I’d be hard pressed to anticipate anyone will leave the theater humming these generic tunes.  

It’s the personalities the actors bring to their numbers that really shine.  Standing out among the musical numbers are the hilariously revelatory duet between Fishbaugh’s Colonel and Carman’s Grace “The Man With the Ginger Mustache”, and LaFontaine’s side-splittingly eeeeeeeevil (insert mustache twirl) “The Legal Heir”.

SOMETHING’S AFOOT is a raucous romp for anyone who ever read and imagined themselves sleuthing through a Christie novel.  The lively staging and welcoming ensemble, as well as the strong scenic, lighting and sound design make for an immersive, yet light production you’ll be happy to share in with your family and friends.

SOMETHING’S AFOOT is entertaining audiences now through Sunday, March 25, 2018 at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton. Showtimes are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (and 2 p.m. on 3/10) and Sundays at 2 p.m. (and 6:30 p.m. on 3/18). For tickets or more information, contact the Town Hall Arts Center box office, 303-794-2787 ext. 5 (Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1 Hour prior to Shows) or on-line at townhallartscenter.org/somethings-afoot.

 

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