|Picture shows: (bottom) Jason Taylor, Molly Grow, Kate Donovan, (top) Lalanya Gunn, |
Bud Reece, Logan Holmes, Kate Potter, Jenny Newbry, Nick Hamilton
By Tina Arth
Beaverton Civic Theatre’s first fall offering, Clue: The Musical, is a puzzling (get it – “puzzle?”) mix of the sublime and the ridiculous – a solid cast marked with by some superb performances, an amazing set, a fun concept - but the show’s central conceit just missed me. That’s OK – I don’t always love everything I see – but in this case only a couple of slight tweaks would make it a really captivating audience participation event that lives up to the show’s full potential. Neither playwright Peter DePietro’s book nor the lyrics and music (by Tom Chlodo, Galen Blum, Wayne Baker, and Vinnie Martucci) have created anything particularly memorable, but Clue (the actual board game) is a popular and engaging game, and the way to sell the show is to make sure the audience fully plays along.
“Amazing” is an understatement when describing the set – it is a fully detailed, beautifully executed replica of the Clue board that covers the stage floor and rear wall, setting the stage for a giant game; essentially, the winners are the people who can solve the murder mystery by answering three questions: who done it, where, and with what weapon? The actors play the roles of the color-coded character pieces: Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, and Mr. Green, and their brightly colored costumes vividly establish who’s who. The action takes place in the mansion’s nine “rooms,” and the murderer uses one of 6 possible weapons. Three more actors complete the cast – the hostess, the detective, and of course the victim, “Mr. Boddy.”
The show begins with three preselected audience members who come to the stage; each picks one actual Clue card (representing a room, a weapon, and a murderer) that is secreted in a small sleeve and kept in full view throughout the show. Do the math (6 suspects, 6 weapons, 9 rooms) and you see that there are 324 different possible solutions to the mystery, and the random selection process virtually ensures that the answer will be different for every performance. We meet each of the suspects, and learn about their relationships to Mr. Boddy, through a series of solo and ensemble musical numbers. Mr. Boddy is murdered at the end of Act I, and throughout Act II the deceased (but surprisingly active and vocal) victim gives us a series of clues. Audience members are invited to keep track of the clues and deduce the who, where, and how of the murder; at the end of the show the audience members who correctly solve the mystery are invited to stand for a round of applause.
My complaint is pretty straightforward – I know I wasn’t the only person in the audience who just needed a better format to keep track of the clues, plus an extra few seconds where the action freezes and the houselights come up a bit when Mr. Boddy gives the clues. A separate piece of paper and a golf pencil – maybe a few minutes more cleanup at the end of the show; I can guarantee that I would have stayed 100% focused on the game with those tweaks.
OK – on to the aforementioned superb performances! Jason Taylor is a spectacular Mr. Boddy – his timing, vocals, delivery are flawless – I loved him as Gomez Addams, love him as Mr. Boddy – this is a guy I’d go see in pretty much any comedy he chooses to grace with his presence. Lalanya Gunn’s “Mrs. Peacock” is a close runner up, for the same reasons – comic timing, vocals, plus a real mastery of the role’s physical comedy. Jenny Newbry is hilarious as Mrs. White – her over-the-top accent and mobile facial expressions invest the character with a delightful faux pathos. Nick Hamilton is fine as Colonel Mustard, but it’s his strong vocals that really stand out – he, Gunn and Kate Potter (as the winsomely sexy Miss Scarlett) provide a solid foundation for all of the ensemble vocals. Kudos, too, to pianist Linda Smith for staying on top of a fast-paced, complex score.
It’s not likely that my wish for a more audience-friendly game card will be magically granted, so this is more of a cautionary note for future productions of Clue: The Musical. My best advice for now is to go see the show, appreciate the set, costumes and actors, but find the scoring sheet in the program and study it a bit before the show starts!
Beaverton Civic Theatre’s production of Clue: The Musical runs through Sunday, October 13th at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium, with 7:30 pm shows on Friday and Saturday and a 2:00 pm matinee on Sundays.