Special to Valley News
The Temecula Valley Players have done it again! They’ve brought laughter back to town with a night of family fun. To enjoy this thriller as much as I did, be sure to take your funny bone.
After all, ‘It was a dark and stormy night,’ in Washington D.C., 1954. As lightning flashes and thunder rolls around the foreboding, yet beautiful, Boddy Manor; the curtain lifts as the doorbell rings.
“On this very evening in 1954, six strangers, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet find themselves invited to a mysterious dinner party at Boddy Manor,” director Carol Damgen writes. With a keen eye for sleuthing, she cleverly withholds evidence until the very, very end to reveal the murderer when it’s stated, “No! It happened like this.”
Stately butler Wadsworth greets each distinguished dinner guest and announces that for this one night only, each will be given a different name while leading them to the lounge to await dinner.
Later, when Wadsworth defines the nuances of the game, in what else but, “Clue,” he then distributes, what else, but the murder weapons. Wait for it. It’s coming.
And then. The air is filled with foreboding mystery-music.
The eerie melody emanates from the 88 as played onstage by 18-year-old musical protégé, conductor Randon Lane Jr. His illustrious presence at the keyboards, outfitted in white tie and tails with candelabra, defines why he has been given a full-ride at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Even though opening night jitters showed a bit in the opening scene, overall, the cast settled into their roles and as they say in showbiz, they “brought it off.”
Special effects for this show are over the top and the same goes for the set decorations.
Another reason “Clue” is visually stimulating is because Jillian Barr brought her A-game to the costumes. Does it matter that she is only 14 years old? Probably not. She has a keen eye for style. Folks, this play is set in 1954, her grandmother may not have even been alive then! A freshman at Vista Murrieta High School, Barr designed and made, no doubt with her own Singer, an award-winning wardrobe.
In its 39th season, TVP happily participates in the arts program for area high schools by inviting talented students in to share their various talents. Drop in and you will understand why this is a rewarding program for us all.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, in order of appearance, the cast: Tyler Lloyd portrays the priggish Wadsworth, Annalise Valenzuela the saucy maid, Yvette, while Katie Bailey is the hip-swinging-MaeWest-mimic known as Miss Scarlet. Patti Drew portrays the eccentric Mrs. Peacock. Kristine Kultzow brings it to the too-much-married-widow Mrs. White. Tim Wheeler returns to the stage as the inimitable Colonel Mustard. Cole A. Harvey emerges as Professor Plum and former Marine J. Kay Weldon aptly inspires his character Mr. Green. Enhancing the silliness in the eight-ensemble roles are Mary Bean, Rossi C. Smith and Nicolas Amador.
Let me take a moment to tell you about the hilarious brilliance of the choreography created by movement coach Peter Varvel. What appears as spontaneity-of-movement by the cast is actually a series of carefully thought-out steps from the imagination of Varvel. His ingenuity lifts the overall production beyond measure as cast members tippy-toe from room to room or spiral about in “No! It happened like this.” Varvel’s step sequence is comically creative with an homage to The Pink Panther’s stealth. His comic sense of movement provides the connectivity between scenes.
While TVP is not an Equity house, the performers must withstand the same scrutiny as union members. Not being the only person in the audience to lay claim to judgment, each seat is filled by a critic. This night the house laughed and guffawed, indicating high praise for the show. That is why I believe the cast will only brighten in the few remaining performances, no doubt hitting its full stride on closing night Feb. 13.
All performances are at the Temecula Community Theater, 42051 Main St. For ease of parking, use the free public parking center next to the police station on 2nd street off just a few blocks east of Front Street coming into Old Town. For tickets, visit www.temeculatheater.org or call 866-653-8696.
Visually this whodunnit is a 10+. Enthusiasm value is 10, yet not ready for prime-time on opening night…therefore it is an 8 out of 10.
Also running is “Nunsense” at The Welk Resort, 760-749-3182; “Life Sucks” at The Cygnet in Old Town, 619-337-1525; “Catch Me If You Can” at San Diego Musical Theater, 858-560-5740; “Desert Rock Garden” at New Village Arts in Carlsbad, 760-433-3245; “Heisenberg” by Scripps Ranch Theater at 858-395-0573; and “Trouble in Mind” and “El Borracho” in Balboa Park, 619-234-5623. More shows are opening in March.
Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at email@example.com.