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Regional Reviews: Seattle

Something's Afoot at Civic Light Opera

Also see David's recent reviews of The Full Monty and Light Up the Sky

There are several agreeable performers in CLO's Something's Afoot, and they are chiefly what is good about the company's production of this less than stellar musical spoof of Agatha Christie genre murder mysteries. Director Rick May keeps the show moving, aided by Crystal Dawn Munkers' simple but satisfying choreography, but it all seems like a lot of talent gone to waste on a decidedly third rate show.

Something's Afoot's book, music and lyrics are credited to James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, with additional music by Ed Linderman. The music is determinedly derivative but inoffensive, while the lyrics generally fall flat as they attempt to spoof the likes of Cole Porter and Noel Coward. As for the script, it's a lame variation on Christie chestnuts like Ten Little Indians, and instead of Christie's redoubtable Miss Marple, we get a certain Miss Tweed, who lamely spouts theories about who might've done it -- it's not the butler as he dies straight away -- while all around her are being dispatched.

Despite heinous sound and miking issues which rendered much of act one unintelligible, the show owes a lot to the comic invention and vocal prowess of a cherubic charmer by the name of Jonathan Reed, who plays the nasty heir apparent, Nigel Rancour. When Reed is dispatched after his charmingly played second act solo "The Legal Heir," his presence is sorely missed. Rosalie Hilburn as Miss Tweed clearly understands and relishes the archetype she is spoofing. Michele Greenwood Bettinger and Tim Tully as a pair of household servants enliven things considerably with their naught duet "Tiny Little Dingy," Eric Hartley blusters with panache and dies with flair as a stuffy old Colonel, and Doug Knoop makes his Butler cameo count. As the romantic pair of the plot, Christopher Lewis Shaver and Janet Reasons are game but saddled with really bad songs.

Jeffrey Cook's scenic design for the interior of a seedy old country estate is respectable, though its use of a blue wallpaper motif makes it resemble the nursery set from Peter Pan. Doris Black's costumes are suitable and attractive, and Julianne Keenan's lighting is largely effective. Musical director David Maddux should have worked his cast a bit harder on diction, and hopefully whatever poltergeist got into Paul Westfall's sound design can be exorcised in future performances.

All in all, sitting through Something's Afoot isn't murder, but it does make one realize what a good job Rupert Holmes did with his similar but far superior musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Something's Afoot by Civic Light Opera continues at the Jane Addams Auditorium 11051 34th Ave NE, in North Seattle, through December 7. For reservations and information call (206) 363-2809.

- David-Edward Hughes

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