“Clue,” The Musical, at Mud Creek
Writer / Ray Compton
It has become part of our DNA. All of us seemingly strive to achieve control.
For instance, the baseball pitcher practices to control his curve. The salesperson works on his or her presentation to garner control that can lead to a winning result. And the lawyer does his homework before going to trial in hopes of gaining control in the courtroom.
The desire to achieve control goes on and on.
Frequently, this is the case in acting and directing movies, shows or theater. Do you think Mel Brooks or Martin Scorsese would surrender control of their movies or plays?
Indeed, that scenario would be doubtful for the directors of such hits as “Young Frankenstein” and “Raging Bull.” And that is why it is a challenge to see what Jim Williams is taking on in the upcoming play “Clue” at Mud Creek Theater in November.
The confident director is willingly turning over a portion of the control to the audience during the nine performances of “Clue” at the Geist stage on 86th Street. Each night, three members of the audience will select the ending of the performance of the legendary board game turned play. And Williams and his entourage will be faced with the challenge of adapting to whom committed the murder, what weapon was used for the crime and the location of the murder.
For those keeping score, the show has 216 possible endings.
“It’s the ultimate who, what and when situation,” said Williams before an October rehearsal. “We will have to be ready for some changes. The dialogue does change. The cast will have to be ready. This is real improv. It is really cool.”
The play is a wild and colorful adaption of the board game that was created by Englishman Anthony Pratt in 1944 as family entertainment during German bombings of London during World War II. Pratt devised the game as a vehicle to be played in bomb shelters. The game was originally called Cluedo, and the game was marketed as the Classic Detective Game.
Pratt and his wife applied for a patent in 1947, but due to post-war shortages, the game was not officially launched until 1949. Eventually, Parker Brothers acquired the license and retitled the game to Clue. It has been played by millions worldwide.
Williams and his partners are bringing to stage the familiar names from Clue. This includes characters such as Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock, Reverend Green, Colonel Mustard and Mrs. White. Not to be forgotten are Mr. Boddy, the ringleader of the unfolding story, the Detective and another pivotal performer, the Piano Player.
Though the 1985 movie, “Clue,” played to less than raving reviews, the acting list included names such as Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Eileen Brennan and Madeline Kahn. In the performance at the Barn, veteran local musician Emily Block will handle the keyboards, while local Lawrence high school students Sarah Brown (cello) and Cole Huffman (drums) will join Block on stage during the play.
“It’s fun music,” said Block who teaches piano in the Geist area. “You think of cartoon music. There is a lot of dancing and not many solo performances. Our goal is to make it fun.”
In a slight twist, the detective is played by a female, Celeste Hattrick, a senior at IUPUI who has performed in numerous local cabarets, including appearances in “Hairspray” and “Legally Blonde.”
“I am really excited about the role,” said Hattrick, 23. “I have never had a role this big, and so it is a challenge. My role is fun. My character seems to be a pain in the butt as she will do whatever it takes to find the killer.”
Hattrick admits the key to the possibility of adapting to the numerous script changes is “teamwork. We have to work together when we have the different endings.”
The “puppeteer” of the story will be Mr. Boddy, played by Russell Watson.
“He controls the game pieces,” Williams said.
Of course, a key to the success of the play falls into the lap of Williams, who directed “Odd Couple” last year at Mud Creek and who has been involved in musicals such as “Little Shop of Horrors” (he played the voice of Audrey, the giant plant), “Man of LaMancha” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Trying.”
“I would rather be on stage,” admitted Williams, 47 and a one-time student at Ball State. “But it is entertaining too as a director or as actor to help people forget the real world. When a show clicks together, there is a rush.”
Williams admits he has been on a controlled rush since holding auditions and starting practices.
“Our group is ready to go,” he said. “They have worked very hard to put everything together.”
Advance sales for the performances – starting Friday, November 18 and concluding Saturday, December 3 – have been brisk, said Williams.
“This is really a family show,” said Williams. “This is for the big kids (adults) and the little kids. Some things may go over the kids’ heads, but it’s a terrific show. There is something for everybody,” including dance, song and brilliant colors.
“I am a perfectionist,” confessed Williams. “I will be harder on myself than anybody else. I will play close attention to details.”
And the attention to detail will go a long way in helping everyone figure out the who, what and where of this bigger than life game.