Updated: Sep 29
Colonel Mustard: “How many husbands have you had?”
Mrs. White: “Mine or other women's?”
The audience is engrossed; nearly every person in the packed room is squirming on each twist and turn. Dramatic blackouts bring on a collective, titillated murmur. The climax spurs a spontaneous squeal. What might be responsible for this remarkable, almost unheard-of level of engagement in the theater? Shakespeare? Williams? Kushner?
Try one of the most cleverly conceived farces ever written. It’s “Clue, A New Comedy” – and at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and McCoy Rigby Entertainment, it is, ultimately, inexplicably, a fun time. “Clue” is their first show of the 2021-22 season, and rightly – a comedy. It’s high time for a laugh or two. And this West Coast Premiere, which officially opened September 25th, running through October 17th, is just the stuff to turn that Covid frown upside down.
Based on the 1985 Paramount Pictures film with screenplay written by Jonathan Lynn, and inspired by the Hasbro board game, this new madcap comedy adaptation is written by award-winning comic playwright Sandy Rustin (“The Cottage”), with additional materials written by Hunter Foster and Eric Price, and will keep you guessing until the final twist. Or should I say, twists? There are, how should I say…multiple scenarios.
It calls back to the days of that Paramount film, which was released with three different endings — the one you saw depended upon which theater you happened to be sitting in. Think of “Rocky Horror” back then, when people dressed up as the characters and mimed the show below the screen.
The 1997 Off-Broadway musical added even more audience participation, with some deciding the final outcomes of the plot. There was costume contests, walk-on celebrities and fourth walls broken. This was “Clue.”
The Setting, however, has not changed: It’s 1954 on a dark and stormy night, and six strangers have been invited to a very unusual dinner party at a shadowy, spacious mansion just outside of Washington, D.C. The guests arrive one by one, and they are all introduced to Mr. Boddy, whom Wadsworth reveals has been blackmailing them for engaging in un-American activities. He brought them all together this evening so they could confront Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police. But Mr. Boddy has a better idea. Why doesn't one of them just kill Wadsworth instead? Then they can march out of this freaky mansion and act like nothing ever happened. Problem solved.
Okay, but that proposal doesn't go exactly as Mr. Boddy planned. He gives each of the guests a lethal weapon — a candlestick, a knife, a wrench, a revolver, a rope, and a lead pipe... again, we feel like we've heard these before somewhere — and then turns off the lights. But instead of killing Wadsworth, one of the guests murders Mr. Boddy instead.
Suddenly it’s everyone for themselves as the bodies start to pile up. Soon, that includes the cook, a motorist whose car had broken down, the cop who found the car, and a singing telegram delivery girl. Everyone’s a suspect, but who is the murderer?
The hilarious action is precisely plotted by Director Casey Hushion (Broadway/Nat’l Tour: “Mean Girls;” “Drowsy Chaperone”), as spoofs, gags and double entendres are bandied about by a robust, delightfully over-the-top ensemble that all excel in precise comedic timing.
Substantially, “Clue” offers up a buffet of offenses, from blackmail to sexual harassment, but withholds all those painful complexities and delivers only the thrill of the infraction itself. There is murder but no blood, sex but no nudity, so much screaming but no one is really angry. Perhaps because of its naive depiction of illicit activities, its toilet jokes, its secret passageways, maybe its alternate endings, its cheesy double-entendres, or possibly just the perfect way that Wadsworth says the word NO. But regardless of all that, “Clue” will remain the comedic gem it has always been.
The madcap cast features Jeff Skowron (Broadway: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) as Wadsworth the butler, the ring master who runs this circus with charisma and enigmatic poise; Harrison White (Broadway: “The Lion King”) plays the cocky war profiteer Colonel Mustard; Heather Ayers (Broadway: “Groundhog Day”) is the perfectly uptight and unapologetic Mrs. White; Mary Birdsong (TV: “Reno 911”) is the kooky, sparkly and effervescent senator’s wife Mrs. Peacock (who, as a child, I was convinced was based off my grandmother).
Sarah Hollis (Film: “Tyrone’s Infinitization”) also stars as the sardonic but scorching Miss Scarlet, a high-end escort; Ted Barton (Off-Broadway: “Separate and Equal”) is the handsy ex-psychiatrist Professor Plum; John Shartzer (Netflix: “Grace and Frankie” opp. Lily Tomlin) is the buttoned-down, rubber-legged, nervous Republican Mr. Green; Cassie Simone (Robbie Award Nomination: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) is Yvette; Michael Cavinder is Ensemble and u/s for Wadsworth, Professor Plum and Col. Mustard; Nicole Clemetson (“Rent”) is Ensemble and u/s for Yvette; Rachel McLaughlan (Nat’l Tour: “Sesame Street Live”) is Ensemble and u/s for Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock and Miss Scarlet; James Tolbert (Nat’l Tour: “Footloose”) is Ensemble; and Perry Young (Nat’l Tour: “In The Heights”) is Ensemble and u/s for Mr. Green.
And hats off to the production designers, as they’ve successfully created the creepy and spooky 3D dwelling that goes well beyond a Hasbro game board. Cricket S. Myers (Sound Designer), Jen Caprio (Costume Designer), Kaitlin McCoy (Wig, Hair & Makeup Designer), Steven Young (Lighting Designer), and Lee Savage (Set Designer) earn points for detail and bursts of color amidst the drabness. Properties Designer is Kevin Williams, Jill Gold is Production Stage Manager, assisted by Dylan Elhai, and Julia Flores is Casting Director. Featuring Michael Holland’s original music.
“Clue” is an enjoyable evening wrapped up into a perfect 90 minutes with no intermission, and will continue performances through October 17th. Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 2:00pm & 8:00pm, Sundays at 1:30pm & 6:30pm. Free Parking. Talkbacks with cast and crew will be on Thursday, September 30th and Thursday, October 14th. Tickets range from $17 — $79. Group discounts available.
For tickets, call (562) 944-9801 or go online at www.lamiradatheatre.com.
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report