Musical Comedy Murders: a Triumph over Nature
by The Milton Measure on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
In a strange case of life imitating art, Blizzard Nemo accompanied the debut of the winter mainstage play, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, whose characters are themselves stranded by an inconvenient snowstorm. While the weather’s uncooperative attitude led to the play’s cancellation on Friday and Saturday, leaving only two performances on Thursday and Sunday, the valiant cast and crew held fast to that old dramatic motto: “The show must go on.” Emmie Atwood (II) conceded that the snow storm disrupted the usual buildup of energy throughout “run week,” but still raved about the enthusiasm of the audience and cast during the Thursday performance. Tech crew member Solana Czwakiel (II) noted that the schedule change “affected the energy and flow of the Sunday performance.” Other cast members agreed, but stressed that they were grateful for the chance to perform again despite the weather.
In light of the fact that the show has already finished its last performance, let’s avoid the usual “you should go see the play!” spiel and instead give credit where credit is due by highlighting the achievements of the cast, crew, and directorial staff.
The black-masked murderer’s chilling presence provided a nice contrast with the play’s absurd banter. The stage abounded with (occasionally literal) backstabbing, shocking revelations, and double (and triple) identities. Sam Audette (I) was suitably repellant as the obnoxious director turned murderer Ken de la Maize, while Charlotte Goddu (II) stunned as radiant yet absent-minded Baroness Von Grossenkneuten, whose secret-passage-riddled mansion serves as the play’s backdrop. Those doubting this reviewer’s journalistic impartiality are kindly encouraged to keep it to themselves.
Harry Wood (I), dashing in an interestingly patterned 1940s suit, played what appeared to be a World War II-era version of himself: Eddie McCuen, a struggling stand-up comic with a heart of gold. Many of the actors, including Ian Malone (II) and as the delightfully snarky and disdainful composer Roger Hopewell, were given characters whose personalities closely matched their own. Fellow actor Nelson Barrette (I) affirmed that “[a] lot of people had parts that were suited to them.” Olivia Atwood (I) was hilariously over-the-top as lyricist Bernice Roth, whose booze-fueled ranting added to the onstage chaos. Administrators take heed.
Harry’s dalliance with singer/dancer/spy/heartthrob Titi Odedele (II) provided some sweetness amid the carnage. Emmie played triple duty, sneering and flirting as Helsa the German maid, limply flopping about as a murder victim’s corpse, and shrieking and brandishing a cleaver as cross-dressing murderer Dieter Wensel.
The single best performance, however, must be credited to Nelson Barrette, not least because he’s reading over my shoulder and has full executive control over the content of this article. Disguised first as courteous Irishman Patrick O’Reilly, he showed off his linguistic talents: in a crowd-pleasing moment, he pulls a gun and reveals himself as undercover cop Tony Girabaldi, replacing his Gaelic Brogue with a Bronx Italian accent. Immediately after this revelation, however, he is further unmasked as Nazi secret agent Klaus Stansdorff, and returns to his apparently native German accent, moments before being stabbed to death through a book case. For those unlucky enough to have missed the play and who are incredibly confused by all of this accent-changing and death, suffice it to say that “stuff” went down.
Shane Fuller’s expertly assembled set added a great deal to the play’s entertainment value. Characters disappeared and reappeared all night as doors to secret passageways slid open and shut with clockwork precision. In fact, no machinery was involved—techies with a good sense of timing pulled each door every time an actor onstage hit the corresponding switch.
Director Dar Anastas called the production an “evening of pure enjoyment” and a “fantastic piece of theatre.” She urges students who missed the showing to go to Milton’s home page, where a recording of the entire show is available for viewing. Furthermore, recognizing that live theatre is immensely preferable, she hopes that students will make an effort to attend future performances—in the spring and beyond.
The winter stage play was an exhibition of everything that makes Milton’s drama program exemplary: incredible acting, beautiful stage design, technical wizardry, and an almost startling degree of professionalism. While it is too late to see the hard work and considerable talent evidenced in The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, it’s not too late to seek out a cast member or techie and let them know they did an awesome job. They did. Trust me.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=4521