Encore Michigan

‘Clue’ brings murder, mayhem and music to The Meadow Brook

Review October 23, 2021 Patrice Nolan

ROCHESTER, Mich.— It’s a dark and stormy night. A door creaks. The lights go out. A gun shot. A scream. And then… peals of laughter. It can only mean one thing — Travis W. Walter did it in the theatre with a killer cast and crew.

Yes, it’s Meadow Brook Theatre’s fall offering, which generally offers a theme complementing the spooky Halloween season. This year, it’sClue: On Stage,” a murder mystery based on the 1985 movie, which is based on a best selling board game, which has been turned by playwright Sandy Rustin into classic farse. The premise? Six guests, six potential murder weapons, nine rooms in the Boddy Manor, and one newly dead corpse. Of course, that’s just for starters. The doors are locked, the bridge is washed out, and the guests must identify the murderer before the final curtain. If they fail, it’s literally curtains.

This production, directed by Travis Walter, is silly, over-the-top, and absolutely wonderful. For pandemic-weary patrons, it’s a perfect evening’s entertainment. As an added bonus, it features live underscoring by Stacy White. This recalls the atmospheric danger music that used to accompany scary movies in the silent film era. With the live keyboard player situated downstage right, the outrageous choreography of the characters as they race between rooms is heightened to hilarious effect. The music serves to accelerate the razor-sharp timing and elevate the absurdity of the fantastic situations. It’s ideally suited to farce and a charming addition to this show.

The play is set in McCarthy-era Washington, DC, where everyone is paranoid about the “Red Scare” and being fingered as a communist. It’s harvest time for blackmailers. The principle characters will be familiar to anyone who has seen the movie “Clue” or played the game — which is to say, everybody. These prime suspects include: the nuance-challenged Colonel Mustard (Phil Powers); the black widow, Mrs. White (Amy Griffin); the obnoxious capital wife, Mrs. Peacock (Lynnae Lehfeldt); the jittery Mr. Green (Chris Stinson); the womanizing snob, Prof. Plum (Timothy C. Goodwin); and the sensuous temptress, Miss Scarlet (Jennifer Byrne). The butler, Wadsworth, is played by Gregory James, who doubles as Fight Captain for the production and delights audiences with his wildly gymnastic performance. The cast is capably rounded out by Olivia Ursu as Yvette, the maid, plus Stephen Blackwell, Grant Cleaveland, and Lexie Farrer in multiple roles.

We have come to expect only the best production values from Meadow Brook, and this show excels. The set by Kristen Gribbin is entertaining on its own merit, with rooms that slide in and out like the tiny drawers of an old Victorian roll-top desk. The show is lit by Eric Van Tassell, sound design is by Mike Duncan, and costume design is by Leslie Littell. This show is packed with tightly-timed cues and runs without a missed step by stage manager, Terry W. Carpenter.

“Clue: On Stage”is terrific fun, runs a tight 90-minutes straight through, and is highly recommended as a timely stress buster. It runs at Meadow Brook Theatre, on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, from October 13 through November 7, 2021. 

NOTE: As Covid-19 is a constantly changing situation, MBT will be monitoring and adhering to the guidance given by the CDC, the State of Michigan, the Actor’s Equity Association, and Oakland University. Check the Meadow Brook Theatre website at www.mbtheatre.com for the latest information on efforts to keep everyone safe.

Week of 5/16/2022

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