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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
Something's Afoot adds music, murder to summer calendar
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Something's Afoot adds music, murder to summer calendar

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Something's Afoot
Taproot Theatre
Through August 13


Taproot Theatre, in north Seattle in the Greenwood area, has a long tradition of popular summer musicals. Well-known shows (like Godspell or Man of La Mancha) and cult titles (like Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) delight summer crowds looking for light entertainment. Extensions are the rule for these audience-pleasing hits - and that tradition will undoubtedly prove true for the just-opened Something's Afoot. It's scheduled to run through August 13, but the cheering opening-night audience last Friday suggests that the show will be extended - watch for that announcement any day now.

Something's Afoot started in regional theater in 1972. A send-up of Agatha Christie and other favorite British mystery writers, it ended up on Broadway in 1976. Since then, the mini-musical has returned to its regional theater roots and is a perennial favorite on that circuit. With its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, the story concerns 10 distinctly 'British types' who find themselves in an isolated country home on an island in the middle of a lake. It's 1935, with all the stereotypes and costumes associated with the era. Indeed, our young heroine's evening gown seems lifted from a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance routine.

People appear one by one. All are stereotypes. Miss Tweed, a delightful Jenny Cross, is as durable as the fabric in her tweed outfit. Flint, the caretaker, a crusty Tim Tully, reflects his name in every scene. Hope Langdon, a charming Natalie Anne Moe, is full of & well, hope. One by one, each character is murdered - but in a delightfully comic fashion. Obviously inspired by Christie's And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians), Something's Afoot tackles the basic how to murder everyone and still make sense - well, some sort of sense.

The mishmash of plot and characters works fine by itself, but longtime fans of British murder mysteries will have an even better time. The songs - few for a musical, just enough for this mini-musical - all work well. Miss Tweed's 'I Owe it All to Agatha Christie' is a standalone standout, but it's also a loving tribute to the Grand Dame of British murder mysteries. Flint's sly 'I've Got a Teeny Little Dinghy' is another brilliant comic outing that charmingly makes plot sense. Sort of. The double meaning is well incorporated into the clever choreography by Christy McNeil.

Sharp dialog adds another level of fun to the show. A reference to 'lunatics and lechers,' an offhanded 'that ninny was your nanny,' the disclosure that one character was 'a foxy Oxford coxswain' all zip by with little stress but pile up on the comedy meter.

Scott Nolte's on-target direction helps make Something's Afoot zip by. The set design by Mark Lund, the costumes by Sarah Burch Gordon, and the musical direction by Edd Key all add to the overall success. The production uses four live musicians - who perform in the theater's basement with their sound brought up to the stage and the actors through electronic means. It sounds like a recipe for disaster but it works beautifully in the intimate theater.

The cast includes a number of longtime Taproot regulars (like the delightful Pat Sibley as Lady Grace Manley-Prowe in a terrific Art Deco gown) as well as a number of others making their Taproot debuts (like the stylish Ian Lindsay cast as Geoffrey - the last one to arrive on the island). One wonderful throwaway moment is when Geoffrey swims in and arrives with a tiny backpack. In a few off-stage moments, he changes from athletic gear into full white tie and tails. Like a precursory James Bond, he evidently can pack full dress regalia into the smallest space.

Something's Afoot officially brought summer to Seattle for this scribe. With few days of sun, let alone few days of sustained sun, the gray and wet summer just seemed to drag on until a bright ray of sunshine at Taproot - the aforementioned Something's Afoot - brought indoor sun and summer to the Emerald City.

Taproot Theatre is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. After Something's Afoot, the season continues with Oscar Wilde's stylish comedy of manners, An Ideal Husband, opening September 21 and running through October 22. Ticket details on all productions are available at (206) 781-9707.

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