AshevilleHendersonvilleLocal News: Asheville and HendersonvillePete Zamplas

‘Clue’: Hints of intrigue spice up FRP comic musical

Marcy McGuigan (Mrs. Peacock), Michael MacCauley (Col. Mustard), Preston Dyar (Mrs. White), Ryah Nixon (Miss Scarlet), Jay McGill (Mr. Green) and Scott Treadway (Prof. Plum) suddenly dance in “Clue: The Musical.” Photo by Nick Gillespie, Big Bend Photography.

By Pete Zamplas – “Clue: The Musical” delivers the Flat Rock Playhouse’s usual splendor of acting, song and dance along with doses of intrigue and drenching of whimsy.

The comical murder-mystery musical is based on Parker Bros.’ famed 1949 whodunnit board game, and debuted off-Broadway in 1997. (The film version was in ’95.) The play runs on FRP’s mainstage this weekend and concludes next week, after opening last Friday. The Tribune reviewed the Saturday matinee.

“This very silly show — resembling something more akin to the movie Airplane than anything close to Shakespeare — is all about having a good time,” stated FRP Producing Artistic Director Lisa K. Bryant, who directs this romp.

Each zany quick-paced performance varies along with the murder details. Audience volunteers pick from giant cards to determine the crime’s who, how and where. Results are shielded from the rest of the crowd, then suddenly are the catalyst for the performance’s plots.

There are 216 possible combos. A paper form in the playbook enables each audience member to jot down the possible perpetrator, weapon and room — adjusting when they emerge or fade, based on clues. Anyone from the audience who guesses the correct combo gets to take a bow, in the end.

The familiar puzzle pieces brings back youthful memories of the Clue game. Where in Boddy Mansion did the lethal crime occur? The conservatory, kitchen, library, study, lounge, or billiard room? The weapon? Revolver, knife, rope, wrench, lead pipe or candlestick? Who did it — and why? There was a major plot twist in the end, at least on Saturday.

The twisting plot is a backdrop for character interaction and tomfoolery. Acting, singing and dancing is (Professor) “Plum good,” as the cast “cuts the (Colonel) Mustard.”

Suspects are seasoned FRP Vagabonds Scott Treadway (Prof. Plum), Michael MacCauley (Col. Mustard), Preston Dyar (Mrs. White) and Marcy McGuigan (Mrs. Peacock); along with Ryah Nixon (Miss Scarlet), and Jay McGill (Mr. Green). McGill is sharp in acting and singing in his FRP debut. These six click together.

Performances are also outstanding by scoundrel and murder victim Mr. Boddy (Dane Whitlock) and detective (Maria Buchanan). Boddy narrates and supplies the audience with clues in the first act/game round. After Boddy is offed, the detective gives more clues to narrow the investigation.

Bryant’s comical direction and encouragement for going full tilt is extra evident in the wackiness of the detective. This is the one person added to the familiar board game characters. Buchanan is bi-polar-like in mood. She swings from inquisitive, observant, analytical and intimidating to the suspects to suddenly insecurely dashing offstage while whimpering.

Whitlock shows he still has “it” back on stage, as he smoothly ushers us on this journey of intrigue and jollies. He is busy as FRP’s development director, and writing about the plays in marketing the state’s official theater.

All six suspects understandably loathe Boddy, enough to mortally avenge his wronging them. Boddy is a heartless and miserly swindler, smooth-talking and at times rude. Yet he is also charming and teasing with clues. Boddy embodies the multi-natured characters.

Dyar’s brisk maid Mrs. White gets in many one-liners, as she revolts against the others and the investigation. Forget sweet cherries, as she sings “Life is a Bowl of Pits.” She is fed up slaving in the huge mansion for Boddy, in return for his having paid bail to spring her stepson from jail. Someone else may have beaten her to it, but she looks eager to stab or clobber her boss.

This working class spunk sharply contrasts Dyar’s recent (for FRP) sly and sophisticated conniving of Antonio Salieri, who undermines rival Mozart in “Amadeus.” This is among cross-gender roles for burly Dyar, adding to the physical comedy.

MacCauley is adept as the crusty elder military hero, once thwarted in trying to get a war commission by Boddy’s senator father. The Boddy family tree has inter-weaving branches, among Clue characters. The paranoid colonel carries a revolver with him, he explains, as “The enemy is everywhere.”

MacCauley has appeared in the new TV series Homeland and several detective shows, getting a musical accompaniment from them as he enters some Clue scenes.

Treadway, in his 35th FRP season, keeps hitting home runs with his antics. His Plum is likely the most bizarre suspect of all. He is on one hand posh, bookish and socially awkward. He seemingly could not hurt a fly — other than bore it to death.

But there is more capability and culpability than meets the eye, as we see when he dances with the detective. His fiendish cackling reflects his creative mind, when it comes to backstreet justice for not getting his book advance — and, worse, an economic-financial transgression by Boddy.

At one daffy point, each suspects takes the detective’s bait and actually boasts about their unique skills as a potential killer. Mr. Green is a wheeler dealer, as Sultan of the Stock Market. McGill is slick and confident as the successful investor, whose true resume is elaborate. McGill is also the play’s dance captain.

McGuigan is witty and expressive as a very peppery, pompous Peacock who is put off by Boddy. When the detective senses a guilty look, Peacock quips “my plastic surgeon was supposed to fix that.” McGuigan first acted at FRP 20 years ago.

A more recent FRP actress, Nixon, has been in three of its recent musicals. She steers Scarlett from sweet to as devious as the others, revealing past scheming alliances with Boddy and a suspect.

Nixon will star as Justine in “The Love List,” FRP’s next mainstage show, June 14-30.

“Half the job is done simply by casting the right people, and getting out of their way” as director, Bryant modestly stated. “The team was assembled, and everyone was let loose to play.”

The band trio keeps us in the mood, and the plot flowing. Ethan Andersen is music director, and the flashy pianist. Bill Altman is on bass, and Paul Babelay on percussion.

Matthew Glover choreographs, such as sudden dance scenes as the easily-distracted suspects depart from the dire investigation for many frolicking moments. Glover first performed for FRP at age 11, 20 years ago. Vagabond. Familiar film and TV theme music pops in, such as suspenseful sounds of “The Pink Panther.”

Lyrics for “Clue: The Musical” are by Tom Chiodo with music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker and Vinnie Martucci. The script is based on Peter DePietro’s book, derived from the classic game.

The six suspects at one point each are showcased on a pedestal, as if pageant finalists. In such ways, Dennis C. Maulden’s set work is magical. He provides elements of each of the six rooms such as a globe in the library, which rotate into the plot. His game-like square board is the backdrop. Its sturdy steel frame has more squares and brighter lights, for a look from the Saturday Night Fever dance floor. Those squares reflect the mansion’s floor plan. They are each electronically programmable to focus on a given room.

Adam Goodrum is production manager. Bill Muñoz is stage manager, assisted by Zeinab Caskey. C.J. Barnwell handles lights, Kurt Conway sound, Ashli Arnold Crump costumes, Cassidy Bowles props.

Clue: The Musical is presented by BMW of Asheville as Opening Night Sponsor and Henderson County Tourism Development Authority as the Mainstage Series Sponsor.

Good seats remain, as of press time. Ticket prices are $17-52. To buy tickets or for showtimes and other info, call the box office at 693-0731 or check

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