"Something's Afoot," a delightful musical parody of Agatha Christie's classic suspense thriller "Ten Little Indians," is currently haunting the stage at Petrucci's Dinner Theatre through March 8.
The excellent set by John Decker provides all the spooky trappings for the gloomy English country house atmosphere. Upbeat musical numbers and a good many laughs are provided by a mostly competent cast under the direction of Tony Reich.
"And Then There Were None" is the novel on which "Ten Little Indians" is based. The spoof really follows the book more closely than the play.
"Something's Afoot" enjoyed a brief Broadway run in 1976. Book, music and lyrics, which reflect the '30s era, were written by James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach with additional music by Ed Linterman.
The musical is set in late spring in 1935 at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Dudley Rancour. A motley group of guests, all stereotypes created from a collage of Christie characters, arrive during the height of a wild electrical storm. They are: the Ingenue, the Dissolute Nephew, the Family Doctor, the Grande Dame, the Old Army Man, the Juvenile and the elderly female amateur detective (Miss Tweed who dresses as her name implies) with a penchant for the sherry bottle.
(All are hiding some shady secret about their past).
The inefficient staff includes a stuffy butler, saucy maid and sleazy caretaker.
The guests arrive singing in happy anticipation of their "Marvelous Weekend" but soon become sober enough when they learn that their host, Lord Rancour, has been shot to death.
Soon after this shocking announcement, the butler is killed by an explosion on the stairway. In the ensuing amusing number, "Something's Afoot," sung heartily by Miss Tweed and the remaining cast members, they all musically agree "the butler didn't do it."
As the storm grows worse, the lights go out and foul play has a heyday.
All suspect the greedy nephew who seems to have the most obvious motive for wanting his uncle dead. But why murder the butler?
Suddenly, out of the night a young man bursts through the door and he immediately becomes a prime target of suspicion. He and the sweet young thing have a cozy romantic fling.
While they are smooching away the murders continue and the guests drop one by one like flies. But the scared survivors bravely keep singing and dancing to the snappy tunes - "Carry On" and "I Don't Know Why I Trust You (But I Do)."
Miss Tweed, a Miss Marple type of character, dogs the heels of the survivors like a relentless bloodhound hoping to unearth sufficient clues to reveal "whodunit."
The crazy plot twists and turns to give, in true Christie fashion, a "smashing" finale.
What helps make this show work are the many impressive stage gimmicks and sound effects. What is lacking is a quick pace and a consistently delicious satirical edge to the actors' characterizations.
In executing high comedy such as this, comic timing, pace and carefully planned sophisticated line delivery are of paramount importance.
But the production is entertaining, nevertheless. The cast includes: Desiree Kosiorek as Miss Tweed, Laura Lynn Soloman as the Ingenue, B. Keith Miller as the Juvenile, Jane C. Boyle as the Saucy Maid, Murray R. Hunt as the Dissolute Nephew and Sandra Gwynn as the Grande Dame.
* NOTEWORTHY: John Glover, the first graduate (1966) of Towson State University's theater department, and star of stage, screen and television will present an informal talk and answer session at 8 p.m. Feb. 15 in the college's Mainstage Theater.
Mr. Glover, a native of Salisbury, Md., will converse with the audience about his theatrical experiences and offer a showing of film clips that are representative of his comprehensive works.
The evening will benefit the John Glover Scholarship Endowment for Towson State acting students. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. For reservations and further information, call 830-ARTS.