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Well Rehearsed, But Without a Clue

Musical Theatre Guild’s ‘Clue: The Musical’ a Mixed Performance

By Devdoot Majumdar

staff writer

Clue: The Musical

Kresge Little Theater

April 25-26, May 1-3, 8 p.m.; April 27, 2 p.m.

MIT Musical Theatre Guild

In what made for a night of wry one-liners, predictably underachieving voices, and derivative plot twists that leave you wondering not whodunit but “why am I here?” the Musical Theatre Guild gave Clue: The Musical a fighting, flailing shot. As always, the adornments, the costumes, the sets, and the band were impeccable and captivating. And as is also often the case, the foreground, the story, the singing, and the acting left much to be desired.

The production, which carried over for the last two weeks in Kresge Little Theater, tried to dramatize the mystery that is Clue (a board game, but now a major motion picture). The host, played by Stephen Flowers ’06, enters the stage in black tuxedo, and presents the rules to the board game in the form of a musical number.

He has invited six people who want to kill him, has in his house six weapons (from wrench to noose), and his murder by one of these people with one of these weapons can happen in one of six rooms. An audience member chooses each of these from a deck of cards, but the results remain unknown to the audience until the end. That is, the actors were to tailor the musical to the audience’s selection, making for a combinatorial twist to musicals.

The suspects then introduce themselves, explain why they want to kill Mr. Boddy, and interact with one another. The point of Clue, however, is to narrow down those multiple suspects, weapons, and locations to one. Do not be misled into believing there was any suspense to the matter. In a rather lame attempt at combinatory theater, the actual musical numbers and dialogue are barely unaltered with the different possible endings. In between scenes, however, the house lights are dimly lit and the audience is given a verbal “clue” from Mr. Boddy (something along the lines of “One of the people in this scene is a likely suspect” but a bit more subtle and, of course, rhyming). The audience is given a scorecard and a pencil at the beginning with which to track the latest developments and thereby eliminate suspects, weapons, and rooms. But, like an exercise in regime change, the latest developments tend to get tiresome after a while -- a very short while.

Originally an off-Broadway production in 1994 that met little critical acclaim, the musical is rife with puns and off-references to other boardgames. Indeed, the musical’s many quips were met with laughter, but the laughter was of the forgettable, UPN sort. And upon every musical reprise, the lightheartedness of the dialogue was trampled with some of the violently off-key contributions of the cast.

Though most of the cast could carry through in their own vocal range, the inevitably high notes that most Broadway numbers end on bordered on shriek.

The caricatured acting of the troupe was appropriate, but was hindered by a notable failure to enunciate. When “dignity” can’t be discerned from “dickity” and “conclude” from “cocoon,” you know you have a problem. The attempt by Stephanie Cavagnaro-Wong ’06 at a posh British accent for Mrs. Peacock was distracting and so noticeably flawed that it came off as juvenile. However, Tanis O’Connor ’02 managed to do well in presenting the maid, Mrs. White, as a blustery and bitter version of Daphne from Frasier. Ms. Scarlet, played by Welkin Pope G was appropriately floozy and Eleanor Pritchard ’06, playing the role of a detective who solves the mystery, demonstrated great stage presence and subtle acting technique.

The stage, decorated with simple, flat art-deco backdrops to fit the board game theme, suited the musical perfectly. The costumes, aptly designed in “Crayola” fashion for a cast with names like Mr. Green, Mrs. White, Col. Mustard, were attractive and elaborate. The band, composed of cellists Terry Gaige ’04, Elliot Brandow, and Michael Dewberry ’00, was superb, well-timed, and arguably the best part of the entire show.

But it’s not saying much when the highlight of a show is the band. The plot was deficient, the singing was MIT, and the acting was spotty, leaving the overall experience perhaps a bit less vapid than other MIT engagements, but nonetheless fairly regrettable. And though this article may just kill any chance of mine to be the next Broadway superstar via an MTG stint, it serves as yet another example of how valuable a T-pass really is.