What do you get when a name-dropping movie director, a hoity-toity producer, an alcoholic librettist and a group of actors convene to audition for a new musical? Woodson High School's entertaining "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940," John Bishop's classic dinner theater murder mystery.
In a delightful mix of murder, merriment and mayhem, Woodson's recent production kept audiences laughing and guessing as everyone wondered, "Whodunit?"
With a snowstorm, power outages and an eccentric house matron, the scene was set for the perfect murder mystery. As Hollywood personalities came to the home of Elsa Von Grossenknueten, the rigors of the audition process took on a whole new meaning. When characters began turning up missing or dead, those in the Von Grossenknueten house began to wonder: Could the stage-door slasher, absent from the crime scene for three years, have re-emerged to continue his murderous rampage? As the list of suspects grew and the alibis wore thin, the characters set out to play a game of hero and villain as everyone wondered, "Who's next?"
In a murder mystery, each member of the cast is an intricately linked piece of the puzzle. True to form, the Woodson ensemble worked together harmoniously as the mystery unfolded.
Peter Andre's performance as the maid Helsa was right-on with his German accent and delightful timing. Whether serving coffee or cooking sauerbraten, memorable facial expressions and idiosyncrasies made him an audience favorite. As the stand-up comic Eddie McCuen, David Lawson rendered a humorous performance, with deadpan quips and witty observations.
The intricate sets, replete with lavish decorations and period furniture, completed the Victorian room. Craftily created secret passageways perfectly accented the haunted mansion aura of the house with shifting fireplaces and moving bookshelves. The props and costumes enhanced the authenticity of the 1940s show. Just as each passageway led to a different corridor, each secret tunnel led to another layer of the plot.
T.C. Williams High School
At the mansion of Elsa Von Grossenknueten (played by Kelsey Ryan), strange things were afoot. Initially, it seemed normal enough. Von Grossenknueten, an ardent patron of the arts, invited several theater devotees over for a backer's audition.
But soon the guests realized all was not right at Manor Von Grossenknueten. When a snowstorm cuts off power to the manor, a body is discovered. Was the person murdered by the infamous stage-door slasher, and if so, which guest was the killer? These questions and more were answered by the cohesive cast of Woodson's "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940."
The talented cast members displayed variety and depth in their characterizations. From Peter Andre's pert and mildly suspicious character Helsa to Bernice Roth, a lovably, tipsy songwriter played by Jill Rizzuto, the cast grabbed hold of the script and ran with it. David Lawson, as Eddie McCuen, shined among the uproarious ensemble. As an endearing and lovable down-on-his-luck comedian, Lawson's punny quips and constant train of jokes helped to energize the performance. The chemistry between Lawson and Anna Czaplicki, who played Nikki Crandall, warmed the audience's hearts. Many of their moments led to spontaneous applause.
Adding to the energy and ambiance were the fantastic visuals and sets provided by the technical crews. Lighting, scenery and costumes provided an excellent montage of 1940s' style and fashion. Especially impressive was the stage design and architecture by Daniel Fisher and David Maley. Inspired by architectural movements of the times, the set was a strikingly realistic parlor room rife with secret passages that provided the actors the opportunity to interact with a dynamic, exciting set and use all the hidden secrets of the house.
"The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" left the audience guessing and hilariously confused to the end. As a contemporary portrayal of a classical whodunit, all elements combined to form a memorable performance.
Hayfield High School