Murder, mayhem and mystery come with the Maranatha Players’ production of Murder at Crimson House.
There 17 annual musical production, Murder at Crimson House is a parody musical of famous murder mystery’s, down to having a mystery writer named Anguish Crispie as a supporting character. Following the investigation of the world famous Hoboken detective Hercules Porridge, Junior not Senior, as he unravels the tangled web that is the residents of Crimson House.
From a directionally challenged butler to a neighbour who believes himself to be on a safari, there’s no end to eccentric characters in the decaying mansion. As the bodies pile up and his investigation continues Porridge realizes the tenants are kept paying exorbitant rates via blackmail, all while one persistent question hangs overhead.
English and drama teacher Becky Strickland said that she and her cast have been working on this play since September. With cast members included from Grade’s 8 to 12 Strickland said they have a wide range of talent with an ensemble cast of 17.
“It’s a murder-mystery musical parody, so you get all the fun elements in it and the mystery as well,” Strickland said. “They go on this week.”
She selected Murder at Crimson House because she wanted to give her students the chance to go all out in their acting and fully experience melodrama. Strickland has had this play “in her back pocket” for a few years now and with a smaller group to work with this year, decided now would be the perfect time to use it.
“I love the storyline of it the idea of murder and the mystery throughout. It almost kind of looks at Clue to and it parodies a lot of Agatha Christie,” Strickland said, adding. “Even Hercules Porridge is a parody of Hercule Poirot a famous detective in shows as well.”
Much of the melodrama of the play, Strickland says, comes from the relationships between the various eccentric characters and the strain the murder investigation puts on them. When the second body drops on stage Strickland said that “chaos is unleashed” once again as Porridge, the police and all the residents try and discover who committed these murders.
While a darker tone then many of their previous plays, the subject of murder being indicative of this, Murder at Crimson House is still a very comedic affair. With jokes including Porridge having a literal gumshoe, characters hiding using a lampshade and standing still and a fair deal of appropriate overacting felt overall. Strickland said the play is likely not appropriate for little ones under the age of eight but said that everyone else can come and enjoy the production.
Strickland said her cast was “really good” at learning their lines this year, partially due to her absence for health concerns, pushing them to get off book far faster. While there was still some line flubbing at the dress rehearsal The Tribune attended, the dedication the students had taken to learning their lines at the dozens of songs in the production was clear.
“There character development in the last couple of weeks has been really strong to the point where I can identify the separate characters throughout the play,” Strickland said. “They work very hard, they’re very open to suggestion, help and guidance.”
In addition to memorizing lines, the entire cast also had to learn dance routines and musical numbers off by heart. Many of their large ensemble pieces are quite impressive and while there are some songs that are weaker then others, none detracted from the overall enjoyment of the play.
Indeed, Strickland said that she couldn’t get away from the musical element of their annual play even if she wanted to. Her cast always shows a real love and desire to learn the various musical numbers each year, according to her.
“It’s a great night out right around Christmas time to just to have some fun, it’s a great night out for families. These students have worked really hard and I’d love the public to come and see what they’ve put so much time into,” Strickland remarked.
Proceeds from the play’s run go directly to Strickland’s drama program, which helps make it self-sufficient from year to year. Running from December 6 to 7 and 13 to 15 at 7:00 p.m., with a 1:00 p.m. matinee and an8 p.m. show on Dec. 8, there’s plenty of opportunities to see this musical. Tickets are on sale now through The Open Book or the school itself at $10 for adults, age 13 and over, and $5 for children and seniors.
“It’s different this year. If you like murder mysteries it’s a great take on one and it would be great to see people come out, see it and enjoy the show,” Strickland concluded.