Playcrafters Romp in THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940

by Arnie Finkel

Richard Geller, Bill Lamack, and Steven Zanine in a scene from Playcrafters of Skippack's season opener, THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940, playing through April 16.

As soon as I noticed that the music being played as the audience entered the theater was Spike Jones, I had an inkling of what was to come. THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940 is set in the mansion library of Elsa von Grossenkneuten in Chappaqua NY in 1940. Nothing is to be taken seriously and the cast makes sure of that.

Linda Friday as Elsa has mastered the pause and mysterious stare while delivering portentous lines. She has invited the crew of a musical that had a series of murders associated with it to her home to consider a new show which she will produce. This is actually a ruse to reopen the cold case of the Stage Door Slasher. To tell you any more would spoil the fun– but everyone is not who they seem to be…

Elizabeth McDonald as Helsa,the maid, has a super accent and is delightful in the part. Dennis Christoferetti has a hilarious pantomime scene that he pulls off well. Chrisoferetti also functioned as the set’s master builder. Bill Lemack as Patrick O’Reilly, the Irish tenor, has to master several dialects and manages to be funny in each. Steven Zanine is a properly bombastic and just on the edge of over dramatic director Ken De La Maize. I was amazed at how Michelle Quigley died so well as producer Marjorie Baverstock. The duo of composer and lyricist, Roger Hopewell and Bernice Roth, were in good hands with Richard Geller and Heidi Murphy. Ms. Murphy’s dead pan delivery and physical scenes were just about perfect. Mr. Geller provided a necessarily over the top interpretation that was spot on.

As our reluctant hero and would be comic Dave Leva is a joy to watch. Our heroine and would be chorus girl is cutie Amy Refinger. I’d like to hear her really sing a part soon. She had me from her entrance. Director Thomas McGuire puts the cast through its paces and lets the laughs have room. Good job all around.

Bill Lamack and Elizabeth McDonald in a scene from THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940, a Playcrafters of Skippack production, running through April 16 in Skippack, PA.

I must say a lot for the set. It was smashing. You could live in the set if you could put up with at least three secret panels. And they all worked very well. David Deratzian, man of all work at Playcrafters (he is directing their next production, CABARET), is credited for leading the construction team. The other marvel in this show was the complexity of the props. Courtney Katz did wonders in this regard. Julie Kuerchner acted as costume coordinator and kept it all in 1940 style. Brian Shapella‘s lighting and Michelle Castiglioni’s sound design all work to the production’s benefit. Kudos to all.

THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940 is really a slim piece of theater. Playcrafters turned it into a season opener that bodes well for this year.

by John Bishop
Directed by Thomas McGuire
March 31 – April 16, 2011
Playercrafters of Skippack
2011 Store Road
Skippack, PA

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