Murder mystery adds fun to mayhem

March 17, 2017

Senior KaDarius Griggs had an extra challenge in preparing for his role in LaGrange College Theatre’s newest production, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” – he had to learn how to play the piano.

KaDarius plays Broadway composer Roger Hopewell, who joins the creative team of his new musical at a backer’s audition to woo prospective investors.

Because his character plays the piano for two of the musical’s songs, KaDarius turned to Ken Passmore, who teaches piano and applied percussion at the college, for help.

“I videoed him playing the songs so I could watch his hand movements and memorize them,” KaDarius said.

Freshman Laine Fletcher of Valdosta plays Nikki Crandall, a young singer and dancer. Her first time on the Price stage was as Snow White in “Into the Woods,” part of a 22-person cast. In this production, there are only 10 actors.

“It is such an honor to be given such a large role as a freshman,” she said. “I’m working with some of my best friends, and having such incredible support on stage is amazing.”

Junior Caleb Brown’s character is based on the late comedian Bob Hope in his younger days.

“Eddie McCuen is a struggling artist who is so excited to be at this audition,” he said. “He wasn’t supposed to be there but he is filling in for another actor who got sick. He’s thrilled to be around all these people he has admired for so long who are part of the world he loves.”

Caleb said he watched a lot of Hope’s standup routines and movies to get a sense of how the actor moved and talked.

“The play is so well written that’s it’s been easy to find that very important comic timing,” he said. “There is so much energy on stage – if you’re not watching and listening, you’re going to miss something. It’s very fast-paced and so engaging.”

Sophomore Eli Grant plays Patrick O’Reilly, an Irish tenor. He said it’s the first time he’s done an accent piece, which he found “a bit of a challenge,” he said with a laugh.

But he said it’s been more fun learning the intricacies of his character, who may or may not be who he seems to be. In fact, that is the case with several of the roles.

“All of us have struggled to get a bead on our parts because there are such stereotypical characters,” he said. “We’ve really had to work to find the truth of who they are as people.”

Director Tracy Riggs, Instructor of Theatre Arts, said the play is an homage to the madcap who-done-it murder mysteries of the past.

“It’s kind of like ‘Clue’ meets ‘Noises Off’ meets ‘The 39 Steps,’” she said. “It is so fun and playful, and our audiences are going to love it.”

The show opens March 27 and runs through March 31. That’s an unusual schedule, Riggs said.

“We open on a Monday, and close with a 3 p.m. matinee on Friday because we are running right into Spring Break,” she said. “I like to tell people that our play is a great way to start Spring Break.”

“The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” runs March 27-31. Show times are 7:30 p.m. except for the 3 p.m. matinee March 31. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens (55 and older) and non-LC students and free for LC students faculty and staff. The box office opens Monday and will be open weekdays from noon until 4 p.m. Email the box office to make reservations at priceboxoffice@lagrange.edu, or call 706-880-8080. If emailing or calling, please leave name, the performance date/time and number of tickets desired, type of tickets and a call-back number and email address for confirmation.

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