Studio Players continues its recent tradition of mounting a light, frothy summer show with Clue: The Musical, which runs through the third weekend of July. It is a fun evening’s entertainment, with characters and scenarios based on the Parker Brothers’ board game Clue, in which players try to figure out who killed Mr. Boddy with what weapon and in what room. The indeterminacy of the outcome carries over into the show, which apparently boasts 216 permutations depending on the combinations of murderer, murder weapon and location selected in any given performance.
Mr. Boddy, the murder victim, is a narrator for the show, in this production played with ghoulish glee by Adam Sovkoplas. The cute opening number introduces the various suspects with their cartoonish back stories and character traits, all colorfully named and costumed in corresponding hues. We meet the haughty matron Mrs. Peacock (Lindsey Carlstedt), the fatuous Professor Plum (Steve Meadows), the hussy Ms. Scarlet (Rebecca Keith), the garrulous Colonel Mustard (Carl G. Trammel), the ribald housekeeper Mrs. White (Randy Hall), and the sleazy grifter Mr. Green (Justin W. Underwood). They are all funny and fill well the contours of their overblown parts. Keith and Underwood have especially great singing voices, although all the cast perform the music fine, despite some “yelling on pitch” by Carlstedt and some back-of-the-throat singing by Sovkoplas. Hall is especially amusing as he plays the drag role of Mrs. White like an aging vixen. The cast is joined in the second act by a cliché-spouting detective (Stephani Gillham), and is augmented throughout by utility players Jessika Cummins and Chris Wilson. I was particularly impressed by the actors’ excellent diction — I didn’t miss a single word in this show, and John Mark Vanderpool’s sound design amplified and enhanced the company clearly and unobtrusively.
What really sets Clue apart as a good show are the strong production values propping up both the lightweight plot by Peter Depietro and the entirely forgettable music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker, and Vinnie Martucci (the clever lyrics are by Tom Chiodo). Director Bob Singleton keeps the farcical whodunit zipping along at a speedy pace, assisted by Diana Evans Pulliam’s simple yet appealing choreography, seamlessly alternating from live action to dance moves. The musical direction by Jessica Slaton Greene also is solid: vocal harmonies mesh for the most part, vocal solos have shape and character, and I attribute the clear intelligibility of the words to her training and insistence as well. The excellent three-piece combo of Caleb Ritchie on piano, Collin Vice on cello and Jon Dittert on percussion are the glue of the show. They sound full while not overpowering the singers, and they provide an underpinning of energy to the proceedings.
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The inventive set by David Bratcher and Bob Kinstle serves the board game concept well while providing many looks on the fairly small Studio Players stage. The props crew headed by Ellen Hellard has come up with amusing pieces that interact well with the set and with the color-dictated costumes, also by Hellard. What is more, the set, props, and costumes are very professionally rendered, designed for theatrically comic flair and finished with attention to detail — very well done.
There is a running gag throughout Clue: The Musical in which other popular board games, from Parcheesi to Monopoly, are referenced and lightly mocked, such as Colonel Mustard describing Hitler’s Anschluss by playing Twister on a large map of Europe. These self-aware jokes are the funniest in the script, adding a heady ontological twist to the silly material. It is not high art by any means, but it is a diverting entertainment, certainly more fun than sitting down to an actual game of Clue.