CLUE: THE MUSICALBook by Peter DePietro, Lyrics by Tom Chiodo
Music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker, Vinnie Martucci
Director Richard S. Blake
Musical Director Amy L. Wyatt
Choreographer Michelle Foard
Scenic Design Kevin Brown
Lighting Design Scott W. Davis
Costume Design Shanna Gobin
Sound Design Danica Bergeron
Mr. Boddy Russell Vaden
Mrs. Peacock Erynn Michelle
Professor Plum Dustin Simington
Miss Scarlet Amanda Rodriguez
Colonel Mustard Harry Liston
Mrs. White Lon Barrera
Mr. Green Joshua Logan
The Detective Michelle Phillips
Reviewed Performance: 10/13/2013
Reviewed by Bonnie K. Daman, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Using my investigative skills, those were my findings as to who dun it Saturday night at Runway Theatre’s production of Clue: The Musical. My detective prowess was less than favorable however, as I only succeeded in narrowing down one of the final clues correctly. The murderer would most certainly have gotten away. Such was the case for the majority of Saturday night’s audience aside from a handful of guests who technically won the game the game of Clue.
Clue: The Musical is far from a typical murder mystery with its game of cat and mouse. For all intents and purposes, the murder victim is happily aware of his upcoming demise and relishes in carrying out his plot responsibility. The suspects, the weapons and the mansion come to life straight from Anthony E. Pratt’s classic board game and the audience is invited to play “The Game”.
As the show begins, Mr. Boddy, our victim, greets the audience and explains the process of the game. Three volunteers are selected to choose one card from one of three stacks: the six suspects, the six weapons and the six rooms. As these three cards are kept hidden and securely locked in a confidential box in plain view of the audience, Mr. Boddy boasts that there are 216 possible combinations.
With pencils and a detective notecard in hand, the audience receives clues from Mr. Boddy and other characters to discover the who, how and where of this murder case.
Runway’s production of Clue: The Musical has sharp, fast-paced and witty performances given by a tight-knit ensemble cast. Beginning with Mr. Boddy, the opening number establishes the suspects, each actor fueling the next to give a grander, over-the-top performance. In most shows it’s easy to pinpoint a standout performance by one or two actors; however in Runway’s case the bar is already set high by the caliber of talent so that it’s easier to pick out some of the best scenes this production has to offer.
Perhaps the best scene is in Act II during the Detective’s interrogation of the six suspects and their connection to the murder weapons. It amusingly leaves the audience in a complete daze. At this point in the game, if you think you’ve figured out any of the clues, it’s sure to leave you second-guessing and confused. This scene in particular exemplifies how cohesive the cast is, all keeping pace as one and delivering a spectacular performance.
Beginning in order of appearance, Mr. Boddy is astutely performed by Russell Vaden. Vaden takes on the role of the soon-to-be-victim with such earnest expectation it's almost disconcerting. His portrayal is playful and at times giddy over the progress of the impending murder. Other than an untimely death, Vaden's secondary role is that of a host and he does an excellent job conveying the rules and process of the game. During his asides to the audience, Vaden is charming, poetic and never misses a chance to intrigue, or possibly tease, the audience members hanging onto his every word. Though we don’t get to hear much of it, Vaden has a crisp tenor voice that is a pleasant surprise to hear when his character breaks into song.
Erynn Michelle portrays Mrs. Peacock, an heiress from a line of suddenly deceased husbands. Draped in a shimmering blue gown, Michelle is fluid in her performance with an I-always-get-what-I-want attitude. Her rendition of "Once a Widow" is a dynamic introduction to her character and gives the audience cause to doubt her sincerity over her former husbands' deaths. Michelle is fun and flirtatious with a knack for comedic timing.
As the distinguished Mr. Plum, Dustin Simington embodies his character with a great amount of detail and dedication. Every movement, every touch of his thick purple-framed glasses exudes an overconfident, pompous yet lovable genius whose motives are not entirely clear. Simington's voice is pure and strong and stands out during the group numbers without overpowering the other cast members. Perhaps one of the best musical numbers in the show is Simington's duet with the Detective in "Seduction Deduction". It begins with a battle of quotes and leads into an over-passionate Paso Doble of sorts, producing some big laughs.
Amanda Rodriguez, as Miss Scarlet, a sultry lounge performer, has a fire in her eyes that brings believability to the character. Rodriguez’s performance in “Everyday Devices shows some great chemistry between her and Mr. Green. As another strong female personality, Rodriguez adds plenty of sassiness to the role and is not afraid to over exaggerate her character’s sexuality when it comes to getting her way.
In the role of Colonel Mustard, Harry Liston fits the uniform well. His no-nonsense portrayal adds a nice balance to the already flamboyant and over-dramatic characters that make up the other five suspects. My only complaint is that much of Liston’s dialogue is swallowed up by the music. Regardless, Liston manages to stay the course and fits in well with the ensemble.
Much can be said about Lon Barrera as the unreserved Mrs. White. As Mr. Boddy’s chief domestic, Barrera has a subtle way of drawing your attention by knowing the exact moment to pull his face or pause for effect. Then there’s the not so subtle ways in which you are either left red in the face from laughing or holding your breathe in hilarious disbelief at his unabashed portrayal. Barrera’s performance does not go unnoticed.
At first, Mr. Green seems forgettable and uninteresting, until the song, “Everyday Devices”, when Joshua Logan comes out of the woodwork to give an incredible performance as the sly con man. From that scene on, Logan’s portrayal gets stronger by the minute, personifying all these little nuances and attitudes that represent the shady entrepreneur. As Mr. Boddy’s business partner, Logan makes his character’s motives clear whether he’s the one to do the deed or not.
The Detective enters the scene in Act II to continue the investigation and assist the audience in ascertaining who dun it. Michelle Phillips is fast to the punch in establishing a tough exterior and simultaneously is quick to reveal that her character can be quite the contrary. What with tendencies to quote nursery rhymes and an aversion to being stared at, she plays the role opposite all six suspects with bravado. Phillips has an impressive voice that carries throughout the theatre and her performance elevates the Detective far from that of a secondary character.
Seeing a board game come to life not only requires the game pieces to materialize, such as the suspects and weapons, but also the board itself. Kevin Brown’s scenic design opens up in layers. At first glance, you notice the peculiar yellow tiling across the floor but it’s not until the introduction of all the suspects you realize each character is standing on their corresponding colored square. The surrounding hundreds of yellow squares make up the base of the board. From there, the individual rooms are like Tetris blocks moving out a few cubes and then folded back into its original formation which creates the adjoining walls of the stage. The addition of Mr. Boddy’s portrait overlooking the set adds an interesting element to the overall design as well. Audience members would do well to glance at it every so often.
Blue, purple, red, yellow, white and green are the key colors representing the six suspects, as anyone who plays the game of Clue should know. Simple coloring but most likely a challenge nonetheless, lighting designer Scott W. Davis manages to hit each shade with perfect timing according to their matching characters. It’s a consistent barrage of color variations, fluctuating with the actors and the scenes. Davis makes it look easy.
Also maintaining each character’s assigned colors is Shanna Gobin’s costume design. Mrs. Peacock and Miss Scarlet are easily covered in blues and reds, respectively. Mrs. White’s white is derived from accent pieces such as an apron and the white of a graying wig. Colonel Mustard and Mr. Green also rely on accents to add color, like boots or a tie. Mr. Plum is purple from head to toe but without appearing clownish or comical. Mr. Boddy, the dearly departed, appropriately wears black.
Not much of Michelle Foard’s choreography stands out…for a good reason. Several musical numbers involve choreography that becomes so integrated with the natural movements and rhythms of the characters you don’t feel as if you’re watching actors perform rehearsed moves. It is not only credit to the actors but to
Foard as well. For a couple of big numbers, Foard choreographs formations and walking patterns for the cast and again gives the song a seamless look for the actors to have a natural performance. There is surprisingly more choreography than I originally expected for a smaller cast and Foard does a superb job filling out each musical number.
Director Richard S. Blake has packaged a smart cast and an excellent crew to share a great time with audiences experiencing Clue: The Musical. The two-hour show flies by, keeping you mentally engaged. For those who love a challenge, you are invited to participate in crossing off your own clues and suspects as the show progresses. With 216 potential outcomes, it would be difficult to see the same show twice. The small bit of conspiracy theorist in me thinks it could be rigged, but then again where’s the fun in that?
215 North Dooley Street, Grapevine, TX 76051
Performances run through November 3rd
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $20.00 and $15.00 for students and seniors 60+.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.runwaytheatre.com/
You may also call their box office at 817-488-4842.