The second offering of N.C. State University Theatre’s TheatreFest 2016 is a spoof of Agatha Christie mysteries. The title itself suggests a bad pun: Something’s Afoot. This murder-mystery musical comedy, which features a book, music, and lyrics by James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, with additional music by Ed Linderman, was first produced on Broadway in 1976.
At TheatreFest, an extraordinary cast of 10 actor/singer/dancers, backed up by an orchestra of six, including the musical director Julie Florin, belt out lilting songs, from beginning to end, and prance charmingly around amidst the murders that thunderously occur among them, thanks to the choreography of John C. McIlwee.
Scenic designer Jayme Mellema has created an utterly posh sitting room in the country estate of Lord Dudley Rancour, replete with stuffed deer heads, a wild boar head, an Oryx head, a beautiful stuffed red fox, a full suit of armor, a wall of weapons ranging from maces to swords, a complete pipe organ, stairway and upper-level landing (actually used!), fabulous wallpaper, an enormous cylindrical vase, and an ominous, huge chandelier.
Much of the story is told through the effects of sound and lighting designer Joshua Reaves. Dramatic effects cues were flawless.
Costumes and hair design by Laura J. Parker replicate the styles of the 1970s, and the servant’s and butler’s garb are traditional.
Kudos to director Rachel Klem for choosing such a talented cast and positioning them such that action followed movement around the stage, from small intimate moments to moments in which all 10 actors are sprawled across the stage and before breaking off into separate little groups. There is never a dead moment, so to speak.
The household help – Lettie the kitchen girl, Flint the handyman, and Clive the butler — do exceptional work. Linh Schladweiler is the perfect butler, in charge at all times, Flint the lazy, possibly only partly “ept” handyman is played by by a very “ept” Nathan Head. Morgan Piner, as newly hired Lettie, rousingly opens the show with “A Marvelous Weekend”, and is soon joined by the rest of the cast.
Carly Prentice Jones is a smash as Hope Langdon. She brings a wealth of musical and dancing skills to the party.
Dr. Grayburn is played effectively by a dignified Ron Foreman, with a sedate demeanor. Nigel Rancour, possibly the heir to Lord Rancour’s estate, and assuredly desirous of being so, is played with appropriate sleaze and cunning by Ryan Miller.
Lady Grace Manley-Prowe and Colonel Gillweather are played by Susan Durham-Lozaw and Bill Saunders, whose duet “The Man with the Ginger Moustache” is a show stopper — both touching and deliciously humorous. Saunders gets the best of the British Empire from himself as he breaks out the Union Jack and prepares for what comes next. Durham-Lozaw is every bit the graceful lady until she gets an completely unexpected shock.
Miss Tweed, who probably represents both Agatha Christie and Jessica Fletcher as the no-nonsense know-it-all, is played with great sincerity by Lenore Field, who enchants us with her performance, and especially leading the the song “I Owe it All” along with Geoffrey and Hope.
Daryl Ray Carliles brings us Geoffrey, the interloper, who soon fits right in with Hope and the rest of the group in no time. His Duet, “New Day” with Hope, is bright and uplifting, in the spirit of new-found love.
SECOND OPINION: June 10th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8017; June 8th Raleigh, NC Technician (student newspaper) preview by Samuel Griffin: http://www.technicianonline.com/features/article_4afc6fdc-2df2-11e6-8da1-c383dfab3539.html; and June 1st Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/theatrefest-2016-a-salute-to-the-queen-of-mystery/Event?oid=5032368.
N.C. State University Theatre presents SOMETHING’S AFOOT at 7:30 p.m. June 15-18, 2 p.m. June 19, 7:30 p.m. June 22-25, and 2 p.m. June 26 in the Titmus Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall, 2241 E. Dunn Ave., Raleigh NC 27607, on the NCSU campus.
TICKETS: $18 ($6 NSCU students, $14 students and $16 seniors 60+ and NSCU faculty and staff).
BOX OFFICE: 919-515-1100 or http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?organ_val=22089&event_val=SOME.
SHOW/THEATREFEST 2016: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/whats-on-stage/theatrefest-2016/.
Something’s Afoot (1976 Broadway murder-mystery musical comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2173/somethings-afoot (Samuel French, Inc.), https://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/8170 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Something’s_Afoot (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.goodspeed.org/My%20Files/Guides/Teacher%20Instructional/SOMETHING’S%20AFOOT_TIG2.pdf (Goodspeed Musicals of East Haddam, CT).
James McDonald (book, music, and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6618 (Internet Broadway Database).
David Vos (book, music, and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/5024 (Internet Broadway Database).
Robert Gerlach (book, music, and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/8375 (Internet Broadway Database).
Ed Linderman (additional music): https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/12063 (Internet Broadway Database).
Rachel Klem (director): https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/our-team/ (N.C. State University Theatre bio).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.