'Something's Afoot,' and it's funny, at 2nd Star

  • "Something's Afoot" by 2nd Star Productions
"Something's Afoot" by 2nd Star Productions (Bud Johnson, Special to…)
November 18, 2010|By Mary Johnson, Special to The Baltimore Sun

The folks at 2nd Star Productions are currently offering a lighthearted musical mystery that is a fresh approach to comfortably familiar entertainment. Created 40 years ago by James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach, "Something's Afoot" is a musical parody of an Agatha Christie-genre murder mystery.

Whodunit fans will likely remain largely clueless about the culprits, while fans of musical comedy will find a highly derivative score reminiscent of 1930s Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films.

A mediocre score and cliched characters gain charm through the efforts of 2nd Star's skilled cast, backstage crew and musicians. The actors seem to delight in bringing dimension and individuality to their stock characters, while Jane B. Wingard, 2nd Star's president and the show's producer, has designed a fabulous multi-paneled, meticulously crafted set that provides perfect special effects that help bring about the amusing demise of several characters.

The story, set in 1935, centers on a group of houseguests, unknown to one another, who are stranded on a stormy night in the country mansion of Lord Dudley Rancour.

The butler — the usual suspect — is the first to die. He is killed by an exploding staircase, an accident remembered in a song that follows. Butler Clive's demise occurs soon after he has announced the apparent suicide of host Rancour, news greeted with relief by the guests.

The action throughout is enlivened by musical numbers, often commenting on a character's sudden departure. All meet their ends through such means as a gas explosion, a lethal telephone, a faulty light switch, falling into a giant vase, and being hit by a wall sconce.

In 2nd Star's production, a chandelier falls on cue twice and weapons pop out of walls and from the arm of a knight's armor. All victims' bodies are carried off to be stashed in the library.

Everyone in 2nd Star's "Something's Afoot" seems to being having fun, starting with director Judi Wobensmith. Twenty years ago, according to Wingard's production notes, Wobensmith volunteered to direct this show whenever it was performed.

Wobensmith, directing at 2nd Star for the first time, has numerous directing credits in Annapolis, including at Colonial Players, Annapolis Summer Garden and Children's Theater. In "Something's Afoot," she allows the actors the freedom to flesh out their characters as they become better known.

Serving for the second time as 2nd Star's music director, Joe Biddle invests the score with a spirited quality. Choreographer Jamie Erin Miller makes a strong 2nd Star debut, creating delightful chorus-line dances along with soft-shoe routines that are well executed, complete with straw hats and canes or swords and scarves.

Wobensmith has recruited a trio of top-notch Annapolis actors. Diane and Duncan Hood shine in their roles. Diane Hood is busybody amateur sleuth Miss Tweed, whose theories propel the show's action. Duncan Hood provides major comedy as caretaker Flint, proving an ideal partner for Shannon Benil's saucy maid, Lettie, in their show-stopping "Little Dinghy" number.

Benil's sharp comedic skills and musical talents add much to the show, as do the musical talents of Hood's Miss Tweed.

A standout among the six invited guests is Lesley Miller as Lady Grace Manley-Prowe, stunning in her glamorous costumes as she reveals a number of closet skeletons. She mystifies and amuses with fractured French.

High comedy is provided when Miller's Lady Grace discovers her past relationship with the stodgy adventurer, Colonel Gillweather (Todd Cunningham), who hilariously exploits a prolonged death scene when poisoned by a blowgun dart that he has time to analyze.

Seen recently in Colonial Players' "The Battle of Bull Run Always Makes Me Cry," Monica Anselm Garcia makes her 2nd Star debut as Hope Langdon, who seems delighted to be among the guests and may actually be Rancour's rightful heir. Her dancing and singing are pleasing, although at times she had difficulty projecting above the orchestra.

Her real-life husband, Matt Garcia, plays Lord Dudley's nephew, Nigel, displaying a powerful voice and a fine comic sense in his 2nd Star debut.

Playing college boy Geoffrey, who gets lost in the storm and is the only uninvited guest at the mansion, is Ethan Goldberg, a student at Anne Arundel Community College who sings and dances well enough to win stage partner Hope's heart and the audience's affection.

Other cast members include Ian Shantz as butler Clive and Marty Hayes as Dr. Grayburn, who both meet an early demise.

If you go

2nd Star's production of "Something's Afoot" continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays Dec. 4 at the Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie. Tickets are $20 general admission and $17 for seniors ages 60 and older and full-time students. Reservations: 410-757-5700. Information: 2ndstarproductions.com.

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