BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – Despite its title, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” is not a musical – though there are a couple of songs – rather, it is a side-splitting send up of the classic “whodunit”, full of confused identities and outlandish situations with a side order of mystery and intrigue mixed in for good measure.
The story focuses on the creative team responsible for a recent Broadway flop, in which three chorus girls were murdered by the mysterious Stage Door Slasher. They assemble for a backer’s audition of their new show at the Westchester estate of a wealthy “angel,” but as they prepare their performance, bodies start to drop in plain sight, knives spring out of nowhere, masked figures drag their victims into hiding, and accusing fingers point in all directions. Added to the chaos are a bumbling detective on snowshoes, two (or three?) Nazi agents, and a German maid who is apparently four different people – all of which figure diabolically in the comic mayhem that follows when the infamous Slasher makes his reappearance and strikes again – and again.
Directed by Julia Tadlock, former artistic director of the Theatre Department at Vermont Academy, the cast of 10 is made up of both veteran and first-time actors, aged 13-19. “These kids are so generous and ready to jump in,” says Tadlock. “They have impressed me not only with the bold and interesting choices they have been making as actors, but the compassion they show to one another each and every day – making the stage a safe place for them to really explore and play”.
NEYT’s new Professional Mentorship Program has afforded the production many new technical and design opportunities, including a presentation to the production team and actors by Morning Glorious Vintage, which provided the historical content and the reasoning behind 1940’s fashions, based on the cultural and political climate of the era. The gorgeous, period-perfect costumes were created by Vivian Smith, and the fabulous hairstyles were designed by period hair designer Zac Binney. The intricate set, replete with sliding panels and secret passageways, was designed and built by Jason Clark and his team of student apprentices.
You won’t want to miss this spoof on the murder mystery genre, which will harken audiences back to the familiar delight of the late-night movies from the 1940s. Will the mystery be solved and the Slasher unmasked? Perhaps – but not before the audience has been treated to a sidesplitting good time and a generous serving of the author’s biting, satiric, and refreshingly irreverent wit.
Performances are on Friday, Oct. 6 and 13 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 7 and 14 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday Oct. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased in advance at www.neyt.org, in person at the NEYT Box Office, or by phone 802-246-6398 from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. The show plays at New England Youth Theatre, 100 Flat St. Brattleboro.
New England Youth Theatre is an accessible theater, with accommodations for wheelchairs, and Assistive Listening Devices for patrons who are hard of hearing.
This show was made possible through the generous support of Twombly Wealth Management and Experienced Goods Thrift Shop. New England Youth Theatre is also supported by Foard Panel, the Vermont Children’s Trust Fund, Vermont Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.