Little Theatre of Fall River's current mainstage show is "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" by John Bishop. The play takes place in 1940 at a mansion, specifically the library, in Chappaqua, New York owned by Elsa Von Grossenknueten, and her maid Helsa Wenzel. It is a backers audition for a new musical held in the middle of a blizzard. In the opening scene we see that Helsa is killed by a masked figure, and we see Elsa talking to a police officer, Michael Kelly, about some undercover scheme. Both seem unaware of the maid's murder. The next morning, we see Helsa again, only now her entire personality seems to have changed. The guests Elsa has invited begin to arrive. They have been invited for a backer's audition for the musical "White House Merry Go Round", and the fun begins with an Irish tenor, a theatre director, a singer/dancer, a "bad" comedian, and the producer. The library has many secret passages behind bookshelves, in the walls and closets. Director Bob Gillet picks the best ten performers to fill these roles and asked Al Deston to compose original music for the show. Their combined expertise elicits topnotch performances from the cast in this musical murder mystery which leaves the audience guessing whodunnit all night long.
Since this show is a murder mystery type with many twists and turns of characters, identities and plot lines this review will comment on the performance of actors/actresses in these roles. All performers are different from each other and are easily identifiable in their roles. Helsa is played by Stefani Lawton who sings "Falling in Love Again" and has some strange family connections. Her German accent is fantastic. Elsa played by Laura Bomback, hires Michael Kelly played by John Panchley who is disguised as a waiter but turns out to be a cop to find the stage door killer. Patrick O'Reilly played by Michael McGill, is supposed to be an Irish tenor who isn't what he seems. His revelation scene is startling to behold. Ken De la Maize, the director, is played by John Sheppard. He likes to drop many famous names along the way but this director isn't quite as successful as he seems.
Kristen Kearns plays Nikki Crandall, the chorus girl who falls in love with the comic not the hero or maybe that's not really true. The pretenious producer, Majorie is played Caitlin Robert. She gushes and exclaims everything is divoon. Nishan Lawton plays Eddie, the comic with great energy and has some tongue twisting lines, too. His clever asides are very comical. Roger Hopewell is well played by Tyler Rowe. He brings down the house as this flamboyant character who scolds his writing partner, Bernice . The heavy drinking, Bernice Roth is excellently played by Sarah Morse who wins many laughs with her comic antics. Her fainting is a hoot. One of her funny moments occurs when she finally decides to write "Nebraska", a musical about America. So for a funny murder mystery that will have you guessing who is who all night long, be sure to catch "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" and enjoy the original music of Al Deston while doing so. A word of praise for the gorgeous library set.