WCT's 'Clue, the musical' gives board game a stage

Six murder suspects, each holding a possible murder weapon, surround Mr. Boddy (Mike Owens) in a scene from Waukesha Civic Theatre's "Clue: The Musical." Pictured, from left, are Colonel Mustard (David Jirik), Mrs. Peacock (Margaret Teshner), Professor Plum (Andrew Byshenk), Mrs. White (Laura Heise), Mr. Green (Thomas Hess) and Miss Scarlet (Rachel Krause).

Six murder suspects, each holding a possible murder weapon, surround Mr. Boddy (Mike Owens) in a scene from Waukesha Civic Theatre's "Clue: The Musical." Pictured, from left, are Colonel Mustard (David Jirik), Mrs. Peacock (Margaret Teshner), Professor Plum (Andrew Byshenk), Mrs. White (Laura Heise), Mr. Green (Thomas Hess) and Miss Scarlet (Rachel Krause).

 

By MARILYN JOZWIK

Published March 11, 2018


I thought the idea of turning “Clue,” the board game (remember those?), into a musical had promise.

Romping through a murder-mystery with suspects such as Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet seemed like such fun.

Waukesha Civic Theatre is currently trying its hand at “Clue, the Musical.” The cast really gives its all on a handsomely designed set with nicely-defined mood lighting, outstanding costumes and fine interpretations of the one-dimensional board game characters. The music is mostly handled well and the three-piece orchestra in the back of the stage is first rate.

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Unfortunately, the 90-minute, one-act show (no intermission) just doesn’t have the drama or wit, hummable tunes or story that holds an audience’s attention. There are various comic devices that don’t work well, though that’s certainly not the fault of this cast, which handled all of the Peter DePietro script and Tom Chlodo lyrics admirably the evening I attended.

Audience choice

The show has three audience members come on stage to choose which of six suspects murdered Mr. Boddy (Mike Owens) in his mansion; with which of six implements; and in which of six rooms. They each choose one of six cards – huge versions of the ones in the game – and these are put aside until near the end of the show. There are more than 200 possible combinations.

The cast slightly alters scenes to get to the desired conclusion, which has a twist at the end. Audience members get a sheet in their programs so they can decide the outcome based on clues from the cast. Mr. Boddy pretty much spills the beans during his narrations as host, which are cleverly done in rhymes and are delivered with an air of authority by Owens. Many in the audience were able to make the correct choices the night I went.

During the show we see each of the characters and learn what could be motivations for murder. For instance, Mrs. White (Laura Heise), a maid, describes how she works her fingers to the bone for Mr. Boddy for so little pay in the tune “Life is a Bowl of Pits.” Heise with her exaggerated Cockney accent is a delight to hear and see.

The characters are involved in all sorts of intrigue. Mrs. Peacock (Margaret Teshner), Mr. Boddy’s oft-married wife, is having an affair with Colonel Mustard (David Jirik); Mr. Green (Thomas Hess) and Miss Scarlet (Rachel Krause) have been double-crossed by Mr. Boddy; and Prof. Plum (Andrew Byshenk) tells how Mr. Boddy swindled his family. 

Muddled murder

After Mr. Boddy is killed, the Detective (Stacy Kolafa) arrives to sort out the murder. Mr. Boddy miraculously comes to life to fulfill his hosting duties during this time as interrogations and accusations take place before the perpetrator, implement and location of murder are revealed … or are they?

I kept thinking of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” being set to music. Christie would be turning over in her grave.

It’s a similar idea here, with the murder-mystery set to Galen Blum, Wayne Barker and Vinnie Martucci’s music. Murder and music don’t go together – unless you’re Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.”

There are some really well-done numbers here, crisply performed with a good dose of camp, such as “Everyday Devices,” in which the suspects describe how items found around the house could be useful tools in a murder.

Jirik’s pompous Colonel Mustard is great fun to watch, especially in the Twister-like bit he does with Miss Peacock.

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Suspects looking good

Teshner’s Miss Peacock uses the whole audience effectively as she tells about the demise of several previous husbands in “Once a Widow,” while Krause’s Miss Scarlet and Hess’s Mr. Green have some wonderful singing and dancing moments. Byshenk’s Professor Plum has a suitable intellectual haughtiness, which he demonstrates so well in the scene in which he and the Detective exchange literary quotations. He and Kolafa's Detective are also engaging as they perform a crisp tango in “Seduction Deduction." Kolafa, too, does a nice job playing the Detective, but maybe could have added a harder edge to her portrayal.

All suspects have been provided wonderful, well-fitting costumes that enhance their characters. And they all contain colors befitting their character names (Mrs. White, Miss Scarlet, etc.) to drive home the point.

There are lots of funny things going on here that don’t quite gel. Mr. Green talks in mixed metaphors (“You’re walking on thin water”) while the Detective speaks in nursery rhymes. I loved Kolafa’s line to Miss Scarlett: “I’m glad I don’t have your nerve in my tooth.” Yet, those sorts of lines didn’t elicit much laughter. 

Orchestra, front and center

The weapons are outsize versions of the game tokens, which added some humor, especially when Jirik’s Colonel Mustard tucked the two-foot long revolver into his pants.

The music is fairly unremarkable, but mostly delivered well under the direction of Yeng Thao. The three-piece orchestra is directed by Donna Kummer, who hammers out all sorts of moods on the keyboards accompanied by Bob Troemel on percussion and Rayden Montes on cello. Their onstage presence is definitely a plus for the show.

Each bit is really nicely done by this well-rehearsed cast, directed by Ken T. Williams. Additionally, characters had wonderful audience engagement and looked great in Dana Brzezinski’s costumes on Evan Crain’s handsome, versatile set.

But all these pieces don’t add up to a satisfying whole on the stage, which proves just too big for the Hasbro board game.

If you go

Who: Waukesha Civic Theatre

What: “Clue, the Musical”

When: Through March 25

Where: 264 W. Main St., Waukesha

Tickets/Info: 262-547-0708, www.waukeshacivictheatre.org

 

 

It all started when…

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