by Terrance Mc Arthur
Clue—the board game was developed in 1943 by Anthony E. Pratt in England, where it was known as Cluedo, and first marketed in 1949. The murder mystery game challenged the players to deduce the weapon, location, and killer. It has been turned into a movie, a miniseries, and…an interactive musical. Clue: the Musical (book by Peter De Pietro, music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker, and Vinnie Martucci, lyrics by Tom Chiodo) is on the Reedley Opera House stage in a River City Theatre Company production through November 3.
Six characters assemble at the home of Mr. Boddy (Michael Westpy):
• Professor Plum (Eric Bailey), Boddy’s ghostwriter who was stiffed on payments,
• Mrs. Peacock (Allison Botello), the much-widowed, ultra-rich wife of Mr. Boddy,
• Miss Scarlet (Cassandra C. Charles), a former affair who was wronged by Boddy,
• Colonel Mustard (Bryan Debaets) who almost married Peacock before Boddy came along,
• Miss Green (Cady Mejias), a scheming entrepreneur and Boddy’s business partner,
• Mrs. White (Stacey Hall), a put-upon housekeeper, in service because Boddy kept her son out of prison.
The purpose of the gathering—they must kill Mr. Boddy. Once he is dead, he returns in blue light as narrator, providing clues that may help solve the crime, and introducing—
• The Detective (April Valle), who gathers possible weapons and questions the suspects.
The solution to each crime changes with each performance, with cards drawn to decide the killer, weapon (lead pipe, pistol, candlestick, rope, knife, wrench), and location (kitchen, ballroom, conservatory, billiard room, lounge, study), with 216 possible endings. At the end of the play, one audience member with the right solution receives a memento of their deductive achievement.
I’ll tell you a truth—the songs aren’t memorable, the plot tries to shoehorn itself into the shape of the game, the jokes don’t always stick their landings, and it all makes even less sense if you’ve never played Clue: The Classic Mystery Game, but…Go see this show! The performers are great, the sound is excellent, and the staging is clever.
Westpy, with impressive acting credits from Jean Valjean to Jesus (Superstar), is unctuous and authoritative, somewhere between Sydney Greenstreet and Sebastian Cabot.
Charles is brassy and flirty, with a powerful voice, and she’s possessed of some smooth moves that are enhanced by her vibrantly red dress. It’s exciting to see her featured in this show.
Mejias comes out as a low-life version of a judge on Shark Tank, a bit snarky, a bit sleazy, and a lot over-confident…especially when mis-using big words. She’s a strong performer, and makes you enjoy an unlikable character.
Botello could be Groucho’s Margaret Dumont, with a dash of the world-weary flirtatiousness of Mae West. She’s cool.
Valle blends Nancy Drew with America (Ugly Betty) Ferrera, with a deerstalker hat clamped down on all that hair.
Bailey –imagine a petulant version of Gilligan’s Professor. Smug and remote, he’s uninterested, but not uninteresting.
Hall is a grumpy spitfire as the cook/housekeeper-against-her-will, who thinks “Life Is a Bowl of Pits” (the funniest song, and my favorite), which evokes memories of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She looks like Alice in Wonderland’s Duchess on NutriSystem. Hall also directed, keeping a brisk pace and staging simple, yet effective, dance moves.
Adrian Oceguera’s sound work and lighting kept the dialogue clear and the stage bright. Jordan Williams is a musical director whose name assures me of good singing and music. The curtain backdrop and clever set units of Kimberly & Jon Houston made for quick changes and easy recognition of place (Loved the quilt-like map of the manor dominating the stage.).
Let me “clue” you in again—the script and songs aren’t fantastic, but the performers and watching how it all comes together, that’s worth the watching!
The Reedley Opera House is at 1720 10th St, Reedley. Purchase tickets on their website or by calling their box office at 559-638-6500.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can also find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on podbean. The last 3 episodes are all perfect for Halloween listening!
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