When Something’s Afoot opened on Broadway in 1976, critic Walter Kerr pronounced the musical mystery fundamentally flawed. Because music relaxes, he said, it’s incompatible with suspense.
Obviously Kerr wasn’t a fan of Hitchcock. But his question remains: Can a suspense murder mystery sustain itself as a musical?
Does Something’s Afoot give us memorable music? No.
Does it hold great suspense? No.
Does it provide a thoroughly enjoyable evening of entertainment with more than its share of guffaws and a few jumps in your seats?Absolutely.
The credit goes to director Judi Wobensmith, who has assembled a cast who works seamlessly together and who keeps the light-hearted romp going even when you know what’s coming next.
Something’s Afoot is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Agatha Christie, especially to Ten Little Indians. Six guests arrive at an island mansion, and you know what’s coming next, just as a storm blows in and strands them. The three servants seem a bit shifty, no host appears and a young man washes ashore in the storm. Then people start dying, starting with the never-seen host. Each death is more implausible than the last. One guest deems herself the detective to ferret out the murderer.
Agatha would never have allowed what comes next: The guests break into song about their predicament.
Dianne Hood as Miss Tweed, the self-styled detective, is the fulcrum around which everyone else spins. She has the proper British bearing and manner down pat. The songs seemed a bit on the high end of her register, but she sells them well.
Matt Garcia plays heir-apparent Nigel Rancour to the hilt of absurdity. He has a strong vocal skill that adds power to his songs, as well as eyebrows that arch beyond belief, lending great comic strength to the show.
In productions from George Bernard Shaw onward, the Cockney character always steals the show. When Duncan Hood is the Cockney, the theft is assured. Hood’s gardener, Flint, is irrepressible and hilarious. His suggestive rendition of “A Problematical Solution” — with Shannon Benil, as the maid, making a duet and Jamie Erin Miller’s inventive and delightful choreography — is the highlight of the show.
Monica Anselm Garcia as ingénue Hope Langdon has a strong voice and a light touch in her soft-shoe routines. Ethan Goldberg as the student Geoffrey matches her vocal strength. Leslie Miller, Ian Shantz, Marty Hayes and Todd Cunningham complete the cast — though they die too soon to get enough attention.
The musicians, led by Joe Riddle are top-notch.
Light-hearted good fun, Something’s Afoot is suspiciously well done!