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ELIZABETHTOWN — Murder, intrigue, mistaken identity, secret passages and comic style will take stage at the Plum Alley Theater this weekend in the Hardin County Playhouse production, “Musical Comedy of Murders.”
The first surprise of this production is that it is not a musical at all. Bo Cecil, company director, often compares the plotline of the play to the movie “Clue.”
“A troupe of musical comedy performers have come to a house in the mountains, get snowed in and slowly one by one their lives are threatened,” Cecil said.
The cast consists of an ensemble of company regulars who have performed in other productions. The comedic air of the show is similar to a Mel Brooks comedy.
“If you are looking for deep thoughtful literature, it’s not,” Steve Pitney said.
Pitney plays Ken, the director of the show within the show. The characters of the play have been brought together for a backer’s audition to get money for their show on Broadway. A murder mystery takes place within the audition.
“It’s a very active play,” Pitney said. “It’s a mixture of Agatha Christie meets Mel Brooks.”
Pitney describes the play as a comedy of timing, adding that some of the lines will sneak up on you and others, audience members will see coming.
“You really need to set up the comic moment, seize the comic moment and deliver the punch line,” Pitney said.
While there is some physical comedy involved, Pitney said most of the comedy is delivered verbally.
“The real comedy is in the words,” he said.
Jeff Birt, a relative newcomer to the Playhouse, plays Eddie, a struggling comedian from New York City. Though he plays the comedian, Birt considers his character to be the least funny person in the production because he plays a struggling comedian. Most of his comedy lines are “wocka wocka-type comedy,” he said, admitting it is difficult to make a funny moment bomb on purpose. While still a novice to theater, Birt said he has noticed the more they work through the script, he and the other actors “find the funny” by mastering timing and physical elements of the performance.
Dee Corkran, HCP manager, enjoys her part because her character is drunk and rowdy through most of the play. She plays Bernice, the company lyricist, and spends most of the production passed out because she faints every time she sees one of the murderous characters.
Comic timing and murderous intrigue are not the only challenges for this cast. Pitney and Mary Henwood are two cast members with additional challenges; they are legally blind. Henwood plays the cleaver-wielding German maid Helsa.
She has had smaller roles in previous productions, but because of her ability to speak with a German accent — probably because of her German mother — she received a larger role with many speaking parts in this play.
Henwood and Pitney tease the other members of the cast during blackouts on stage because Henwood said they are better at it.
“The rest of the cast are very good at directing us in such a way that we don’t cause trouble on stage,” Pitney said. “At one point, I’m carrying a straight razor and she’s carrying a meat cleaver, so it kind of gets a little interesting.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
“Musical Comedy of Murders” runs March 28-30 and April 4-6. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Ticket prices are $13 for adults and $12 for seniors, children and groups. Contact (270) 351-0577 for reservations or more information.