Regional Reviews: Phoenix
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 www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Producers & Casting Directors: David & Corrin Dietlein