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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Clue The Musical’ is a just-for-the-fun-of-it caper in Neenah

Critic At Large

Riverside Players

Miss Scarlet (Brittney Baldwin) is shocked by the shifty Mr. Green (Mike Brown) in a scene from the Riverside Players production of “Clue The Musical.” (Troupe photo)

NEENAH, Wis. (WFRV)

Miss Scarlet. Professor Plum. Mrs. White. Mr. Green. Colonel Mustard. Mrs. Peacock.

Why did they have it in for Mr. Boddy? Why would each of them want to off him?

And so we have the idea behind “Clue The Musical,” being presented for seven more performances to Aug. 4 by Riverside Players in Riverside Park pavilion.

The board game comes to life in song and story, with a little orchestra.

Each night, someone in the audience will win – pick whodunit, with what and where. Winning is sheer luck, but everybody gets to fill out a card that comes with each printed program. And the “culprit” for the night owns up to why he/she killed Mr. Boddy. And the winner gets a little prize that likely will please his or her taste buds.

Some shows a built just for fun. “Clue The Musical” is one.

It’s a chance for local performers to jump into a role and crank up an over-the-top personality.

Take fashion plate Mrs. Peacock, who speaks thus of a presence she radiates: “I have wealth, I have power, I have the Kardashians’ plastic surgeon.”

Each of the six suspects from the board game is shady as all get out (Mr. Green) or secretive to the point of having a deadly motive (Professor Plum) or duplicitous (your choice).

Riverside Players ups the ante of goofiness. The show is camp in the first place, and having a guy take on the role of housemaid Mrs. White takes campiness to another level.

In the board game, Mr. Boddy is a non-factor. He’s simply dead. In “Clue The Musical,” he is host for the evening, with byplay with all of the people who have reason to kill him. “Don’t look sad,” he says to the audience, “I live to be killed.”

The show has an added character, The Detective, whose presence is questioned – “You’re not in the instructions” – and explained by her: “Who reads instructions?”

The cast for this production is one for all and all for one. The players get into the spirit of their colorful cartoony characters dressed in their parts and romp individually and as an ensemble. Director Adam Vandenheuvel develops the cohesiveness, which is especially required when the suspects sing six-part songs.

Dalton Zanin commands the stage as the morbidly cheery Mr. Boddy. Each of the players has the over-the-topness down, with Kris Isham adding full vocal zip to Mrs. Peacock.

Action continues apace, though a sequence with the suspects racing from room to room in the mansion quickly becoming a bore, no matter the energy level in the movement.

The pavilion’s stage is one of a kind for Northeastern Wisconsin. It is a long rectangle with seating on three sides. For “Clue the Musical,” the stage is raised a bit more than a foot, and the floor is laid out like that of a variation on the squares of the board game – 10 squares by 16 squares – with the name “Parker Brothers” apparently a requirement on one edge. The players do their thing within feet of the front rows, and at intermission mingle with the audience as part of a setup for the final minutes.

In sum: A hybrid show on a hybrid stage – perfect for a summer pastime.

***

Creative: Based on the Parker Brothers board game: book – Peter DePietro; music – Galen Blum, Wayne Barker, Vinnie Martucci; lyrics – Tom Chiodo; director – Adam Vandenheuvel; scenic and lighting design – James Frelich; stage manager – Jacqui Lange; costume designer – Sue Kiesau

Cast:

Mr. Boddy – Dalton Zanin

The Detective – Rachel Maloney

Mrs. Peacock – Kris Isham

Mrs. White – Nicholas George

Miss Scarlet – Brittney Baldwin

Professor Plum – Jesse Lockstein

Colonel Mustard – Brad Leonhardt

Mr. Green – Mike Brown

Orchestra: Piano – Kadin Yach; percussion – Nathan Heywood; cello – Grace Hill

Running time: Two hours

Remaining performances: 8 p.m. July 27; 7 p.m. July 28; 8 p.m. July 31-Aug. 3; 7 p.m. Aug. 4

Info: ci.neenah.wi.us

***

Musical selections

Act I

Overture – Orchestra

“The Game” – Mr. Boddy, Suspects

“Life is a Bowl of Pits” – Mrs. White

“Everyday Devices” – Suspects

“Once a Widow” – Mrs. Peacock

“The Murder” – Mr. Boddy, Suspects

Act II

“After the Murder” – Suspects

“She Hasn’t Got a Clue” – Suspects

“Everyday Devices” (Reprise) – Suspects

“Seduction Deduction” – Prof. Plum, Detective

“Foul-Weather Friend” – Suspects

“Don’t Blame Me” – Cast

“The Final Clue” – Mr. Boddy and Suspects

“The Game” Mr. Boddy

***

VENUE: Riverside pavilion in Riverside Park in Neenah is an open shelter used for summer shows of Riverside Players Theatre in the Park, which started in 1955. Seating for 244 or so (depending on arrangement) is set up around three sides of a rectangular stage. The building is stone exterior, with the inside including a wooden ceiling with large wooden support beams and a cement floor. The performance space is what amounts to a thrust stage – “thrusting” out into the audience. This style of stage is famous in some locations – Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Stratford Festival in Canada. It’s interesting that the Riverside Players stage came to be in the 1950s just as thrust stages in other places were getting attention as pioneering. The pavilion’s location is picturesque. The park, on the Fox River near Lake Winnebago, is rimmed on two sides by grand historical homes, one of which was converted into Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass. For settings, Riverside Players has a spot that catches the eye like few others.

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