I won't spoil the fun by revealing whodunit in "Something's Afoot," but suffice it to say it's not the butler. In fact, the old chap is one of the first to be bumped off in Central Lakes College's in-the-round production of the murder-mystery musical.
And the nine guests at Rancour's Retreat in England circa 1935 are quick to launch into a refrain of "The butler didn't do it," setting the tone for the production, directed by Dennis Lamberson.
On Tuesday's opening night, the play dragged a bit during the first act with too many jokes about Miss Tweed's (Joan Witham) affection for sherry. But "Something's Afoot" hits exactly the right note after the intermission -- parodic to be sure, but not so ridiculous that it overwhelms the fun of solving the mystery. In fact, the yarn includes enough compelling plot twists that the songs, although performed enthusiastically, sometimes feel intrusive.
Witham is the standout in a strong cast of familiar and new faces, even though she carries a lot of the expositional weight.
Miss Tweed posits theories about who did it after every murder, and has a blast doing it -- bursting into songs such as "Who Did It" and "Suspicious" and showing a bit too much glee when ordering the bodies dispatched to the off-stage library.
Miss Tweed seems like an affectionate parody of Jessica Fletcher from "Murder, She Wrote." The zest with which she tackles the case -- rather than being frightened or disturbed by the death all around her, as a normal person would be -- personifies the slightly off-kilter fun of "Something's Afoot."
The most entertaining British accents come from David Wilson (as lecherous handyman Flint) and Jessica Horman (as maid Lettie), who get together for the show-stopping celebration of the double entendre, "Teeny Little Dinghy." Nate Bollum also deserves a mention. His butler, Clive, sounds like Napoleon Dynamite doing a James Bond impression; somehow, it works.
Joe Wall as college student Geoffrey and Lydia Hawley as young lady Hope make for a striking couple. (Who ever let a murder spree get in the way of love? Certainly not the characters in this musical.) The duo takes center stage for a few numbers.
More fine character actors round out the cast: Joe Heikkila as a doctor, Nick Brutscher as a guy with an eye patch, Brianna Keran as a widow and David Allan Pundt as an ex-military man. They all make an impression, but none steals the show from the play itself.
After all, it's tough to beat a good mystery.
JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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