Monday, September 22, 2014

Whodunit…the Musical—Broadway Rose—Tigard, OR



Fruit of All Evil

This mystery-spoof musical is written by Ed Dixon, directed by Annie Kaiser, choreographed by Erin Shannon and with musical direction by Mont Chris Hubbard.  It is playing at their space at 12850 SW Grant Ave. through October 19th.  For more information, go to www.broadwayrose.org or call 503-620-5262.


This play is much like the old chestnuts from the 20’s & 30’s, like Cat and the Canary or The Bat, in which there seems to be supernatural elements at work.  And it does owe some homage to Agatha Christie, probably the best mystery writer ever.  The problem with these early mysteries is that they always had a great deal of exposition, which the audience had to wade through, to get to the good stuff.  In short, the second act of this show is better than the first one because of that.

The music itself is not of high caliber but the voices are.  The women, in particular, are very fine singers.  Three of my favorite songs were A Ladies Maid, A Card Reading and Money.  All fun songs and well performed.  The plot should be familiar to all mystery lovers.  Carrie (Debbie Hunter), a spinster, has decided to spend a relaxing week at Sunnyside Cottage, a rambling old mansion, with her irascible maid, Liddy (Jennifer Goldsmith) and her perky niece, Sally (Joy Martin).

Sally has also brought a friend, Jack (Sean Powell), which does not sit well with Carrie or Liddy, being “good girls, they are.”  The house also comes with the drool, family butler, Thomas (Thomas Slater).  But the house has a sinister reputation, as it has scared off most of the servants.  Horrible faces are seen at the window, howling animals disturb the night, the electricity is flaky, and a murdered stranger is discovered in their living room.

Of course this means that a detective is summoned, Jarvis (Mike Dederian), and then one of the boarders disappears.  A stranger (Jon Andrew) also shows up to add confusion to the plot, as does a lively Gypsy, Zaza (Shawna St. John).  When another body is discovered and the bridge washes out their only way to escape, then they really are in a muddle.  But, of course, to reveal any more would not be playing fair.  But I will tell you that there are layers to the people and the plot that are not expected.

As mentioned, this is not the best mystery ever written but it is a good spoof of them.  Also the songs are serviceable at best.  In short, the cast is better than the material they are presenting.  All of them put their hearts into it and are very pleasant to watch.  The set (designer, Charles Murdock Lucas), too, is well done and apes the type of spooky mansions of that period.

Kaiser has done well with keeping the story moving and selecting a very good cast.  Hubbard, as always, gives his best.  And Shannon is a choreographer to be watched, fresh from her terrific job with Pixie Dust.  But the lady who stole the show was Goldsmith, as the maid.  Her looks, reactions, singing and acting were very funny.  She is unlike any maid you may have seen and she was missed when not onstage.  An actress to be watched, as she has talent.

I would recommend this show.  If you do go, please tell them that Dennis sent you.