Review: The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 by MHP Theatre

Review: The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 by MHP Theatre
Moot House: March 14th, 2019.

IN SHORT, this play was riotously funny and quite quite mad. The audience loved it from beginning to end. No wonder they were on their feet at the end.

The creative team responsible for a recent Broadway flop (in which three chorus girls were murdered by the mysterious “Stage Door Slasher”) assemble for a backer’s audition of their new show at the Westchester estate of a wealthy “angel.” The house is replete with sliding panels, secret passageways and a German maid who is apparently four different people- all of which figure diabolically in the comic mayhem that follows when the infamous “slasher” makes his reappearance and strikes again.

There is a hint of Cat and the Canary and a dollop of Mel Brooks as you spend two hours in the company of a series of eccentric characters. Some are played relatively straight (but no less impressive) such as George Walton’s Sgt Kelly and Melissa Jones as Marjorie Baverstock but others are just so out there that every line, every gesture is a delight. Kerry Rowland’s Elsa Von Grossenkneuten was part Young Frankenstein’s Frau Blucher and flyweight wrestler. The fight scenes with the wonderful Jack Downey has to be seen to be believed. We do hope they are ok! Jack Downey has a great stage presence and was rip-roariously funny here.

Characters such as Roger Hopewell played by Leo Shepherd and Bernice Roth played by Lauren Kirk appear to be in their own play but somehow they blend in with the cast and the narrative. They have stand out lines that are outstanding and on a number of occasions they deserve and got rounds of applause.

None of this would have been possible without outstanding direction from Eve-Marie Florence Darby (and her crew). This was not an easy play to direct. It needed a lot of discipline and got it. Word-Perfect and seamless, it kept the audience enthralled. A perfectly directed moment was a head turning sequence. You had to be there but when the last member of the cast turned their head to a member of the audience who duly joined in, it was perfect comedy-theatre.

This was a sell-out. It looked like a number of work colleagues had com et support their thespian friends (Hello Henry Moore staff) and that can bring an added pressure. They were not let down by Helen Delliston as Nikki Crandall.

This was an ensemble piece so it would be remiss to to also mention Dan Powell, Linda Helm-Manley and Mike Rees who all played their part in the show being a great success. Dan’s character in particular was relatively straight but he was a vital lynchpin in the production.

It is another example of how MHP Theatre has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years. This reviewer would encourage you to snap the last few tickets for Friday’s and Saturday’s performances.

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