Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 29, 2012

Something's Afoot

Goodspeed Opera House, Haddem, CT
through December 9, 2012
by R.E. Smith

The home of the American musical settles into the dark and stormy nights of fall with a quintessentially British drawing room mystery. Originally produced by Goodspeed in 1973, 'Something's Afoot" is a change of pace in many ways. Owing much to Agatha Christie's novel, "And Then There Were None," ten supposed strangers are trapped in an isolated manor house and one by one meet their ends.

The score, as the director's notes point out, is more music hall than Broadway musical. There are no show-stopping numbers or poignant ballads that the audience will leave humming. However, a few of the show's little ditties are pleasant enough. "Carry On," is a rousing suffragette-style march and "Problematic Solution (The Dinghy Song) is straight out of vaudeville. " I Owe It All (to Agatha Christie)" is a traditional song and dance tune, albeit with literary references.

©Diane Sobolewski/Goodspeed
The performers are certainly game. Ron Wisniski, as Clive the Butler, seemed to connect with the audience upon entrance, by his voice and physical presence. Black-sheep nephew Nigel, played by Benjamin Eakeley, had the most successful solo musical number with "The Legal Heir." Ed Dixon's Colonel Gillweather generates the most smiles. Ever the precise and punctual military man, he has the most unexpected reactions to surprising revelations. Dixon works wonders by underplaying the role at just the right moments

As always, the set is spectacular, resplendent with wood paneling, ornate wallpaper, and period details. Nevertheless, the action seems too confined. The nefarious means of dispatching the guests are somewhat ill conceived by the authors. This is evident when the cast has to reassemble a piece of the set after a murder just to accommodate its continued use.

Students of American Musical theatre will be pleased to add this lesser known work to their inventory, fans of Agatha Christie will be content with all the nods to her famous oeuvre and the Goodspeed audience will be pleased by the "good show, old chap" they have come to except from the venerable institution.