Musical-theater conventions are always ripe for satirical skewering; ditto for a familiar genre like the whodunit. And the combination of the two in James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach’s Something’s Afoot makes for a delightful opener for Pioneer Theatre Company’s 2013-2014 season.
Set at the English country estate of Lord Rancour, it gathers plenty of familiar types from Agatha Christie-style mysteries. There’s a butler (Jason Barney), a suspicious-seeming relative (Joseph Medeiros), a haughty society lady (Rebecca Watson), an ingénue (Laura Hall) and, of course, an amateur sleuth (Tia Speros) trying to piece everything together. And there’s plenty to piece together, since the discovery of the dead body of Lord Rancour is only the first case of apparent foul play that begins to eliminate the houseguests one by one.
The musical numbers provide many of the high points, not surprisingly, but that’s not because the songs are particularly memorable or hummable. It’s largely because they provide hilarious opportunities to showcase the cast members’ talents, as well as undermine the expected storytelling function of each song. When Hall’s smitten young Hope Langdon rhapsodizes over her new love, Geoffrey (Will Ray), in “You Fell Out of the Sky,” her swooning dance is accompanied by a chandelier that seems determined to follow her wherever she’s leading. And there’s a terrific showcase for Medeiros—who somehow manages to make his weaselly character’s every move seem like a slither—as he searches for a hidden will in “The Legal Heir.”
In one of the show’s goofier, more memorable touches, the first act ends with the comically startling death of one of the characters. But when the lights come up, the stage remains in plain view—and the body of the dead individual remains lying in place throughout the 15-minute intermission. It’s a mark of a satisfying production when even an intermission can keep an audience entertained.
PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY: SOMETHING’S AFOOT
Pioneer Memorial Theatre
300 S. 1400 East
Through Oct. 5, $38-$64