Theater Review - Something's Afoot (CT)

Goodspeed is finishing its outstanding season, after a magnificent production of “Carousel” by digging a musical out of the dust bin of time, 40 years to be exact.  Does anyone remember 1973 and the musical whodunit, “Something's Afoot?”  Originally written by James McDonald, the now-deceased David Vos and Robert Gerlach with additional Music & Lyrics by Ed Linderman, it was a hit at Goodspeed and went on to tour the world. When it finally got to Broadway in 1976, it only lasted 10 weeks, but the authors claimed the audiences were very enthusiastic.

 

It is interesting to see a musical that seems to have all the accoutrements of success and is entertaining but does not reach the level of greatness. Certainly Goodspeed has given it all it can have: the Gothic-inspired set, dark-woods and high ceilings by Adrian W. Jones, lit darkly by Jason Lyons, and Jay Hilton's scary Sounds prepare us for an English mystery.

 

The cast, deftly directed and choreographed by Vince Pesce and costumed with fine definition by Tracy Christensen, whirls with fun as servants, and a group of guests who have been invited to Lord Rancour's estate in the late Spring of 1935. Some spend more time on stage than others, but most of them end up, we might say, lying down dead in the library! Unfortunately, we don't get to see the very rich Rancour; he is found dead in his room in the first minutes of the musical.

 

Deep-voiced Ron Wisniski, a CT Critics winner, is a huge presence as Clive, the Butler, who is first to meet his demise on an exploding step. Audrey Neenan is quite amazing as Miss Tweed, who leads the hunt for the murderer like Agatha Christie. Liz Pearce as Lettie the Saucy Maid and Khris keep running at a brisk pace, while Peter Van  Wagner as Dr. Grayburn, the family doctor, Benjamin Eakely as the dissolute nephew, who is sure he is the heir to Rancour's fortune, and Ed Dixon as Colonel Gillweather, the army man, are all properly turned out. Tall and willowy, Lynne Winterseller is an amusing grand-dame, Lady Grace Manley-Prowe, ex-wife of Rancour and mother of precious Hope, the blond slip of an actress-with an especially silvery soprano -- Julia Osborne.  Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, displays his electric voice as Geoffrey, the juvenile and love partner to Hope.  In 2009, Herdlicka, four days after graduating from Carnegie Mellon, auditioned and got a starring role in Broadway's “A Little Night Music!”

 

“Something's Afoot,” just under two hours with one intermission, has a score that is a little skimpy: 6 songs in the First Act and 5 in the Second Act.  From “A Marvelous Weekend” to “New Day” they are all pleasant, but there is more talking than singing.  I can't help comparing this show to “A Gentleman'sGuide to Love and Murder” which I just saw at the Hartford Stage. It is a cut above. 

 

“Something's Afoot”--  good fun at Goodspeed through December 9.       

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