Musical comedy murders of 1940

Reviewed Performance: 3/23/2019

Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


I was a bit apprehensive at first about this review, only because I couldn’t imagine how a show about musicals and murders would come off. I needn’t have worried, because it worked like magic. Robyn Mead had her hands full with this maze of a show, and she came through with flying colors. The casting was absolutely devoon, and this presentation was a delight to watch.


The action takes place during a blizzard, in the library of Elsa Von Grossenknueten’s mansion, in a cozy hamlet north of New York City. There are new leads in some unsolved murders related to a failed Broadway show, and reuniting the creative team seems to be the best way to wrap up the investigation. Ms. Von Grossenknueten is possibly a little too willing to assist the police in every way she can, and stages an audition for a new musical that she might fund.


Lamar Graham, Randy Sandifer, and Kasey Bush’s set was perfect. It contained enough detail to be realistic, but not so much as to be distracting. Every time a new piece of the set moved, I wondered how I hadn’t noticed that it was detached. Costumes, props, and set dressing were also well-designed.


Robert Stubb’s sound design and Melinda Cotton’s light design were both unremarkable in a good way. There were no shadows or dark spots, and the sound seemed to flow naturally with the action. The selection of pre-show and intermission music was charming.


As Eddie McCuen, Paul Moseman stole the show. His tongue-twisting dialogue and deathly unfunny jokes were a difficult combination to master, but master them he did. He was just awkward enough to gain sympathy from the audience, but valiant enough to be successful against…well, I don’t want to spoil anything.


Kira Echeandia’s portrayal of Nikki Crandall was delightful, with her cute-as-a-button appearance, graceful movements and humble demeanor. She and Moseman worked well enough together they looked like naturals.

As Elsa Von Grossenknueten and Michael Kelly, Sue Goodner and Dan Slay, respectively, were a perfect comic relief couple. The pantomime scenes had me almost falling out of my seat with laughter. Goodner was delightfully dimwitted, and Slay played a wonderful combination of bumbling and genius.


Kelly Moore Clarkson, as Helsa, and Chris Berthelot, as Patrick, carried their accents beautifully. I didn’t notice any slips, and was impressed with Berthelot’s ability to glide seamlessly between accents. Their on-stage interactions were intriguing, coming to fruition nicely in the second act (especially that one scene where they appear to really get to know each other).


As Roger Hopewell, Eddy Herring was fabulous. He mastered the art of tasteless innuendo without being crass. Had I not known better, I might have thought he was actually playing the piano. Penny Elaine was a riot portraying Bernice Roth, with her anxiety-ridden bohemian personality, and seeming disregard for any sense of danger or decorum.


Ronnie Giddens (Ken) and Laura Jennings (Marjorie) were spot on with their interpretations, timing, lines, and gestures. Giddens was a perfectly shallow name-dropper, and Jennings could have come straight from 1940s society.


Overall, the evening was quite enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this show, with one tiny warning. There is cartoonish violence and depiction of a murder, so parents be aware.

image80