Wilmington’s premier dinner theatre, TheatreNOW, opened their final show, “Clue: The Musical,” to a packed house Friday night. Based upon the much beloved board game, the musical opened Off-Broadway in 1997 and now makes the rounds of community theaters worldwide. Peter DePietro put together the book, largely designed to try and create a plot for the game. In reality, it is the songs that communicate the bulk of the information to the audience, with music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker and Vinnie Martucci, and some witty lyrics by Tom Chiodo. The musical borrows a little from the 1985 film, but be warned, if you are expecting a stage recreation of the film, it’s not this.
Our host for the evening, Mr. Boddy (Ron Hasson), introduces us to the rules of the game, which includes us (the audience) selecting a location, weapon and murder. Then we meet the players: Mrs. White (Kathy Davis Enlow), Miss Scarlet (Bianca Shaw), Mr. Green (Dalton Crocker), Professor Plum (James Bowling), Colonel Mustard (Lance Howell), and Mrs. Peacock (Jen Richmond Iapalucci). Here we start to get backstory created for each character.
“Life is a Bowl of Pits,” Mrs. White’s big number, is a fabulous send-up of British Music Hall tradition. Enlow is one of the two performers who really steals the show. Her rendition of Mrs. White as the put-upon Cockney housekeeper/cook/maid is engaging. Her accent is fun, and her attitude toward Mr. Boddy and his “guests” is endlessly laugh-inducing. For comedic relief, Enlow has got it in spades. Not to mention she has one hell of a set of pipes.
Crocker’s Mr. Green is a malaprop-ridden schemer who seems to have a shady past with Miss Scarlett. With his sweet baby face, I just wanted to root for him against the accusations that Boddy makes.
Bianca Shaw’s Miss Scarlett is the living embodiment of the term “va-va-va-voom”! Actually, she is the proverbial triple threat: actor, dancer, singer. Together, the audience sees how these two could really run a scam on an unsuspecting mark: She dazzles people, and while they aren’t paying attention, the guy who seems too innocent to be anything other than trustworthy talks them out of their savings. The pair’s song, “Everyday Devices,” is about their history together, and desire to kill Mr. Boddy. It explores the possible uses of such everyday objects as a pipe or wrench as a murder weapon. It is hilarious and wonderfully executed by two people who truly revel in musical theatre.
Lance Howell’s Col. Mustard kept me smiling. He plays farce so well and his story is so absurd. I mean, it’s all absurd, but his story is especially absurd. Apparently, he has an illness that causes him to mistake people for inanimate objects. I don’t get to see Howell on stage as much as I would like, and this was a wonderful surprise. It is clear in his scenes with Mrs. Peacock, she is in control of the future of the narrative.
Iapalucci’s Mrs. Peacock isn’t a vixen like Miss Scarlett, but the confidence she projects and her calm assuredness is probably the greatest source of her charm for men. It’s working, too; she has buried five husbands already. The group plays one of the most awkward games of Twister ever executed, and anyone who keeps a straight face during it is made of sterner stuff than I.
In the midst of everything, Mr. Boddy apparently dies—and a detective (Georgie Simon) shows up to investigate. Simon is kind of a ringer. She acts the part beautifully, but one has to wonder why her beautiful voice was wasted on only two songs plus the curtain call? With a singer like that, we want to hear her as often as possible! She and Prof. Plum (Bowling) get into one of the weirdest seduction scenes, which centers around a quote battle that begins with Thoreau and ends with Greek tragedy.
Bowling is believable as the stuffy, self-assured Oxford-type. I have spent a lot of my life around men he models this character on—men who have a constant belief they are desirable, brilliant and infallible in the face of monumental evidence to the contrary. Bowling has got the absurdity and self-satisfaction of it perfectly. Oy. Watching Simon slowly tumble to it is so distressing. I just wanted to shake her and scream, “You are a detective! Why are you getting manipulated by this pompous schmuck?”
Appropriately, “Clue: The Musical” began life as a dinner theatre show in Baltimore before it began its arduous journey to Off-Broadway. It shows in the structure: audience participation, a built-in dinner break and a perfect slot for a dessert break. That being said, this is dinner and a show. It really is hard to accept it may be the last meal I enjoy from Chef Denise Gordon. Starting with “Mr. Green’s Wilted Greens Salad,” I was determined to enjoy every moment I could. I even stole my date’s salad when he got up to go to the bar. I love arugula! I love tomatoes! And the homemade dressing with roasted corn in a tomato base was just too much for me to resist. It’s like what French dressing aspired to be, if only someone gave it the hint.
Our main courses consisted of Mrs. Peacock and “Col. Mustard’s Naughty Eggplant-Veggie Calzone.” As a passionate fan of eggplant, it was the perfect parting gift from Gordon, stuffed with eggplant, roasted peppers, squash, spinach and cheeses galore! It was like a plateful of sin. Really, I should feel guilty, but I don’t.
My date scored on dinner, too. He was beside himself to get slow-cooked pork; we don’t cook meat at home. Add in bacon, carrots and celery, and then stuff it in a potato covered in cheese—he really was beside himself with delight. It was a melting pot of savory goodness. (Confession time: I stole his sweet potato quinoa cake. It was so yummy and flavorful, I couldn’t resist, and he was so preoccupied, he didn’t notice.)
It may seem hard to believe we could even have room for dessert, but when Chef Gordon brought out her Vanilla Carmel Crunch Cake, we did. I am, by and large, a chocolate-oriented person; both Jock and I eat a lot of chocolate during the average day. But the salty crunchiness of the cake in conjunction with the sweetness of the vanilla was a perfect way to end the meal.
It was a bittersweet night. The show was fun—very fun—lots of singing, dancing and laughing. That’s what it is supposed to be; it’s not meant to deepen or change perceptions of the world at large. The food was wonderful, as always, but it is sad to see it come to an end.
For seven years Alisa Harris, owner of TheatreNOW, has paid actors, writers and technicians, while bringing a blend of literary merit (Shakespeare, Clyde Edgerton, August Wilson) and low-brow fun (Irish Wake musicals) to 10th and Dock streets. It will be hard to say good bye, but it is certainly going out on a high note.