There are those who find “The Three Stooges,” “The Honeymooners” and/or “The Simpsons” wildly humorous. They may not understand those of us who relish the opportunity to watch “The Big Bang Theory.” There is no right or wrong in either; it is a matter of personal choice. We learn fairly early in life what happens to tickle our funny bones.
Encore Theatre selected a door-slamming, accent-ridden whodunit for the season’s final offering. And I can assure you that it was appreciated by many members of the audience. There was a random standing ovation. (I can’t recall the last performance in Lima that didn’t get one.) Several people said they had fun as they exited. It is terrific when people are entertained by any live theater.
The fact is that there were some competent performances in “The Musical Murders of 1940." For the most part, 10 outlandish characters were played by 10 community theater actors, many veterans among them, who seemed to be having a good time. That may be enough to make many audience members happy.
The set was spectacular, and it worked as well as it looked. Gene Craft and Missy Keller provided an impressive library in a mansion in upstate New York with secret panels. It was appreciated as something quite special before the show even began.
Lights and sound created the spooky atmosphere for a mystery, and the costumes were precisely chosen. The show is technically splendid.
The actors were well-cast and each was a unique personage with all of the flamboyance expected of theater people. Director George Dunster gave them the mannerisms, movement and affected voices expected of such theatrical types. There is a director, a producer, a backer, etc. Those who are watching the television series “Smash” are seeing the modern version of these 1940 caricatures.
Here is the problem for me. With the exception of Nikki (Kedryn Carpenter), Roger (Jeff Kerr) and Marjorie (Pat Rodabaugh), the actors overplayed their outrageous characters as if they were working for the laughs. Very few laughs occurred in the first act. Part of that was getting used to the strange accents. People in the audience muttered, “I didn’t understand a word of that.” As they figured out the various cadences, they became more comfortable.
“The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” will be presented today and next weekend. By the way, it is not a musical, but there are lots of murders. It is a silly escape for two hours, and may just be what is needed to be entertained for a while.
As this season ends, we can look forward to the next. Three musicals, two Noel Coward comedies and a mystery fill the roster for the 2013-14 season. Every high school and college student should put the summer musical “A Tale of Two Cities” on the agenda. In a few hours they will know the plot of an English assignment, and it will be much easier than reading Cliff Notes. It will be exciting for this former English teacher because I didn’t know that a musical version existed.
When done well, Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” and “Present Laughter” offer the epitome of drawing room comedy with sophisticated wit. “Pippin” is just plain fun as musicals go. The other two, “Christmas Schooner” and “Murder in Green Meadows” will be experienced for the first time with the rest of the audience.
Experience live theater as often as possible. We are losing far too many of the leisure aspects of our lives. Not everything can be done with 140 characters or fewer in a tweet.