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Something's Afoot, StageDoor Theatre

By Beki Pindea

SOMETHING’S AFOOT. Written by James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach; directed by Jill Manser. Produced by StageDoor Theatre (25797 Conifer Road, Conifer) through Feb. 12. Tickets available at 303-838-0809 or stagedoortheatre.org.

In a weekend of heavy theater-going, this charming little production was a bright and silly spot. Let me first off state that this was one of the best sets I’ve seen in the past six months. The paneled and polished lobby of Rancour Retreat is the epitome of English manor, full of animal heads and horns, evidence of foreign travel, and understated opulence. Not only does it fulfill the unusual needs of this technically complicated play, but it sets the proper British tone for the evening. Designer Bob Athey and his build crew are to be congratulated for an outstanding job.

Everyone in this cast entered into the fun of the evening enthusiastically, embracing their silly side while moving the play forward to its unfortunate conclusion. The authors have written a witty spoof of everything Agatha Christie and Miss Marple. Shades of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE shadow this production from the first moments to the final untimely death. There is even a musical number that announces, “We owe it all to Agatha Christie!”

Six guests are invited to the Retreat for unknown reasons; of course, a storm brews up, cutting off their way back to the mainland. The company includes the requisite characters for a true Christie mystery: the retired military man (Colonel Gillweather), the nosy but clever female detective (Miss Tweed), the pseudo-society grande dame (Lady Grace), the beguiling and innocent ingenue (Hope), the family doctor, because someone has to pronounce every one dead (Dr. Grayburn); and the family ne’er-do-well nephew (Nigel). The mysterious host in this case never appears. The three servants—Lettie the maid, Flint the caretaker and Clive the butler—bring the number up to the required ten.

The very first murder is Clive, which leads to a song proclaiming that “The butler didn’t do it!” Very quickly people start dropping like flies by unusual methods. We are not above electrocution, poison blow darts, debilitating gases (don’t sit in the front row!) and all sorts of dramatic denouements for these characters. A university student from an overturned rowboat shows up to provide love interest for Hope. While all the music is clever and fits well into the genre, one of the cutest songs of the evening is sung by Clive and Lettie, who plan to escape the island in his “Little Dinghy.” He’s got a lovely little dinghy that he’d love to show her.  The foolishness of thinking they may get away and the cleverness of the methods by which they meet their preordained deaths carry us clear to the end.

While this cast was probably chosen more for their enthusiasm and comic timing than for their vocal abilities, they make the music work for them and execute the dances with energy. The musical interludes only provide background to the mystery of who is going next and how. Each provides a little surprise, with only one or two falling into foreshadowing.

It’s only about 45 minutes up to Conifer from Boulder or Denver. Several good homestyle restaurants can make dinner and a show a fun way to spend a weekend evening. The little theater that could has been providing quality entertainment in the foothills for a number of years and deserves your attention. Only one more weekend—but their next show is another fun musical, FOOTLOOSE.  Check them out!!

WOW factor: 8.5