Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Something's Afoot
Hale Centre Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

The Cast
Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw
With theatre companies in town continually presenting plays by Agatha Christie or ones featuring Sherlock Holmes, the murder mystery genre has proven to be an ongoing and popular crowd pleaser. Hale Centre Theatre's current production of the murder mystery musical spoof Something's Afoot, which is an homage to the works of Christie that doesn't take itself too seriously and has a score that is just average, has a crackerjack cast and some sublime creative elements, resulting in a witty, fun, and lively crowd-pleasing romp.

Written fifty years ago by James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach with additional music by Ed Linderman, the plot centers on a group of murder suspects stranded in a remote, isolated mansion. Lord Dudley Rancour has invited seven guests to a weekend getaway at his luxurious mansion located on an island in the middle of a lake. The only problems? Some of the guests have never met Rancour and don't even know why they are there. Also, they discover Rancour has been murdered shortly after their arrival. With a storm brewing, the bridge to the mainland is impassable and the guests are stranded. As possible motives are revealed, suspicions arise, and the body count grows higher and higher, the characters (and the audience) attempt to solve the mystery of who the killer is and what their motive was.

The authors loosely based the plot on Christie's mystery novel "Ten Little Indians" (Hale presented the stage adaptation, called And Then There Were None, last year). The show combines well-known mystery characters, including the conniving heir to the estate, the suspicious maid, the aloof society woman with a secret, the naïve young ingénue, and the sensible old woman who knows a thing or two about sleuthing. While the score is fine and a pastiche of 1930s British music hall numbers, it's not that memorable. Fortunately, the characters are funny and the intriguing aspect of the show is trying to figure out just who the killer is; the authors have done a pretty good job of continually shifting the focus on who the suspect may be while also keeping the pace brisk. Running just two hours, with intermission, the plot packs a lot of twists and turns into its short time. It also helps that it is not completely predictable, which keeps you guessing.

Director and choreographer Cambrian James injects the production with an upbeat sense of playfulness amid the suspense, and his choreography is fun and varied. His hair and make-up designs are period perfect. Set designer McKenna Carpenter has created a gorgeous, realistic mansion, with period furniture for the sitting room plus an expansive entryway and a second level balcony that has plenty of rich wooden details. There are a lot of hidden components in the set and in the prop designs by Liz De La Torre that provide many fun surprises. Celia Erickson's costumes include richly detailed gowns and evening attire for the men, and the lighting by Josh Brickhouse delivers humor and chills with the use of shadows and color.

Something's Afoot is an ensemble show and the entire Hale cast shines with clear portrayals and warm singing voices. With a keen sense of what makes a good amateur sleuth, Bonnie Beus Romney is superb as the determined Miss Tweed. Carmiña Monserrat and Bennett Allen Wood are lovely as the charming young couple who instantly fall in love; their duet is sunny and warm and wonderfully danced. Trevon Powell is hilarious as the conniving nephew who is up to no good. His witty "The Legal Heir" is incredibly sung. As the mysterious woman with some secrets in her past and an army officer, Gillian Elliott and Rob Stuart, respectively, make for a winning couple. Elliott's exaggerated gestures get big laughs as does Stuart's stoic line delivery. Michala Montaño, Matthew McGee, and Adam Guinn bring intrigue and suspense as the house's staff; Montaño and McGee's duet of "Problematical Solution" is a humorous audience favorite. Brandon Zale does good work as the seemingly sensible doctor who also has some secrets in his past.

Something's Afoot may not be a perfect musical, especially since the score isn't up to the level of the book, but with a wonderful cast and fantastic creative elements, Hale's production is a winner full of suspense and comedy.

Something's Afoot runs through October 7, 2023, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 480-497-1181

Producers & Casting Directors: David & Corrin Dietlein
Director: Cambrian James
Music Director: Cathy Hauan
Choreographer: Cambrian James
Head of Carpentry: Kyle Webb
Costume Designer: Celia Erickson
Lighting Designer: Josh Brickhouse
Scenic Designer & Head Painter: McKenna Carpenter
Props Master: Liz De La Torre
Set Painting Assistants: Brittany Arwine & Liz De La Torre
Carpenters: Kyle Webb, Michael Pratt & Travis Dietlein
Costume Stitchers: Toni Anne Smith & Molly Hill
Sound & Projection Designer: Boyd Cluff
Wigs & Makeup: Cambrian James
Stage Manager: Justin Peterson
Audio Engineer: Jackson Zyontz
Assistant Stage Managers: Trevor Leavitt & Chloe Lewis
Dance Captain: Carmiña Monserrat

Lettie: Michala Montaño
Flint: Matthew McGee
Clive: Adam Guinn
Hope Langdon: Carmiña Monserrat
Dr. Grayburn: Brandon Zale
Nigel Rancour: Trevon Powell
Lady Grace Manley-Prowe: Gillian Elliott
Colonel Gillweather: Rob Stuart
Miss Tweed: Bonnie Beus Romney
Geoffrey: Bennett Allen Wood