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This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the August 8, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Review: `Something’s Afoot’
Ah, the typical trappings of a murder mystery —
a creaking door hinge, a shot in the dark, a far off scream, and .
. . a tuneful little ditty? Well, not exactly.
Sure it has lots of dead bodies, but in Off Broadstreet Theater’s
current production of "Something’s Afoot," a musical spoof
on whodunits in general, and Agatha Christie’s "Ten Little
in particular, suspense has definitely been suspended. Written by
James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, "Something’s
takes the high-stress genre of Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock,
twists it with some comic winks and nudges, adds some hum-able tunes
and turns it into a pleasant evening of light entertainment.
A personal favorite of producers Julia and Robert Thick, this is the
second go-round for "Something’s Afoot" at Off Broadstreet,
having been first staged there in 1988. Performances will run through
August 25, on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8, with Sunday matinee
performances at 2:30.
Typically the most important part of a murder mystery is its story
line, and "Something’s Afoot" is no exception. A group of
six guests, (all broad character types — such as a nephew who
stands to inherit money or a sophisticated woman with secret love
child whom she has never seen) are mysteriously invited to the
country estate of reclusive millionaire, Lord Dudley Rancour. None
of these guests know exactly why they have been invited to see
and each of them is surprised to discover they were not the only
But soon enough, shockwaves are sent through the group when they
learn that Lord Rancour is dead. Fate is stacked atop fate as, unable
to leave due to the fortuitous arrival of a violent storm, each guest
— along with the hired help — is systematically murdered in
The tone is set early in the show when the butler, Clive (played by
Curtis Kaine), becomes the murderer’s first victim when he is done-in
by a mysteriously exploding staircase. Suspicion is cast throughout
all the guests as to who the murderer could possibly be and all
break into song, announcing that their only sure knowledge is that
in this case "the butler DIDN’T do it."
Slowly but surely every character is bumped-off, each
in a uniquely entertaining fashion — such as electrocution, poison
dart, or poison gas emerging out of a disconnected telephone. Finally
there are only two significant characters left, and both accuse the
other of being the killer.
"Something’s Afoot," as written, isn’t the greatest of
The show is highly predictable, the characters are largely bland
and the quality of the songs is uneven. But Robert Thick does a nice
job directing, keeping things running smoothly and with a light,
verve. He combats the predictability of the script with an
well rehearsed cast and an easy-going feel to the show in general.
The cast seems to be having a heck of a lot of fun performing up
and that is no small part of the show’s charm.
Of course, the nature of the broad-based comedy doesn’t allow for
much individual characterization from an actor’s point of view.
a definite versatility is required and Ed Teti as Nigel Rancour and
Gerry Martin as Miss Tweed more than fill the bill. Gianine Teti is
quite charismatic as the young, slightly dippy, Hope Langdon. She
is also a terrific singer. Aggie Roberts is nicely cast as her
goofy male love interest, Geoffrey.
Brendan Scullin infuses his performance as Flint with a boyish
that lends a certain depth to a character that could easily rest in
cliche. Likewise Joyce LaBriola as Lady Grace Manley-Prowe. She is
charming, though understated. Tom Twardowski as Doctor Grayburn, Cait
West as the maid, and Curtis Kaine as the butler all stand out despite
their small parts.
Michael Lawrence is often very funny as Colonel Gillweather and it
is obvious that he is a gifted comedic performer. But at times it
appears that his gifts get the better of him and he morphs into
more cartoonish than funny, almost as if he were suddenly in his own
The multi-storied set design by Robert Thick is quite ambitious and
well rendered. Likewise are the costume designs by Patricia A. Hibbert
and Ann Raymond. Their brightly colored dresses against the rustic
reddish-brown of the set displays an almost a Monet-like sensitivity
to color, making "Something’s Afoot" one of the more lovely
shows to look at.
With an accomplished ability to put on an efficiently run show,
Theater has got the nuts and bolts of theater down pat. It would be
interesting to see what they could do with more ambitious scripts.
Nonetheless, a well-done show, even a weak one, is nothing to sneeze
— Jack Florek
Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, 609-466-2766. $20.50 to $22. To
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