Review: Mirth and murder in Clue: The Musical

Games people play
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  February 15, 2011

The board game Clue has been entertaining families since the end of World War II, when people were especially eager for distractions. In 1985 it was made into a movie that, despite the presence of such talented comical actors as Madeline Khan and Christopher Lloyd, died an ignominious box office death. Nevertheless, in 1997 a musical retread played off-Broadway to similar effect.

Like a brain-sucking zombie whom we continue to see get up and stumble around in movies because we find the idea such a hoot, Clue: The Musical is being staged by the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston (through February 26), directed by Russell M. Maitland. It's a harmless enterprise, and most of the actors are talented enough to give diverting personality to the intentionally stereotypical characters. But as a musical comedy it has no coherent structure, and though it's also an endeavor that the audience is invited to join in, it offers no significant interaction. If this is an audience-participation game, then so is the lottery.

As with the board version, three cards from three categories (suspect, weapon, room) are arbitrarily selected and placed in an envelope. They will establish that the murder has been committed by, say, Miss Scarlet in the conservatory with the candlestick. There are 216 possible combinations. When you play at home, the remaining cards are distributed so you can disprove guesses made as players and weapons are moved around the rooms.

As staged, however, audience members have no such information to eliminate possibilities, so the characters merely flit about, looking guilty at various points, and the arbitrary "solution" comes as a yawn.

What there is to please us before that point are a lot of little entertaining exchanges that give us knee-jerk laughs, like pratfalls. Most important to the laugh quotient are the portrayals of the Crayola-colored (as one of the characters describes them) suspects. In black tie, the distinguished Mr. Boddy (James Shalkoski) guides us through the proceedings, even after the murder when he is drawing a chalk outline around himself. Mrs. Peacock (Megan Wingo), who slinks around elegantly as though puffing from a long cigarette holder, is his wife but is fooling around with Col. Mustard (Geoff Leatham), a harrumphing retired British Army officer who may have been responsible for the death of Mr. Boddy's parents. The seductive Miss Scarlet (C.C. Ice) is a cool hottie who out-sashays even Mrs. Peacock, despite the former having burned through five wealthy husbands, all coincidentally deceased.

Mr. Green (Jack Bailey) has been Miss Scarlet's lover, but he is more interested in being a con artist entrepreneur, having successfully snookered Mr. Boddy in a business deal. The family fortune of the victim was decimated by Prof. Plum (Adam Cavalieri), fey author and intellectual. Two more characters, who are not in the Parker Brothers game, are the Detective (Angela Foley), who comes in to organize suspicions, and the Piano Player (Scott Morency), who not only provides background music and song accompaniment but eventually enters the play. They traipse and tiptoe around the ballroom, conservatory, lounge, study, billiard room, and kitchen, with the knife, candlestick, revolver, rope, lead pipe, and wrench.

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