Review: Something’s Afoot (Citadel Theatre)

     
     

Who dunnit? Who cares?

     
     

The cast of Citadel Theatre's "Something's Afoot" - Kate Andrulis, Sarah Breidenbach, Christopher Davis, Ed Kuffert, Mario Mazzetti, Debra Criche Mell, Dennis Murphy, Gerald Nevin, Ellen Phelps and Andrew J. Pond

  
Citadel Theatre Company presents
   
  
Something’s Afoot
   
 
Book, Music, and Lyrics by James McDonald,
David Vos and Robert Gerlach
Additional music by
Ed Linderman
Directed by Wayne Mell
at Citadel Theatre, Lake Forest, IL  (map)
through June 5  |  tickets: $32-$35  |  more info

Reviewed by Jason Rost

Citadel Theatre clearly has the resources necessary to be a noteworthy professional theatre company in the Chicago area. One instant example of the potential capability of this company is Robert Estrin’s well-designed set. It is impressively built and fills the space perfectly, clueing the audience into the classic English murder mystery style play we’re about to see. It extends nicely outward to give a semi-thrust to the space. I was ready for something akin to The Mystery of Irma Vep, but was quickly disappointed. What Citadel is apparently lacking is the correct caliber of artistic personnel to take the company beyond a community theater on a performance level. Their new 150-seat theatre would be the envy of several companies in the city. However, with director Wayne Mell’s current production of Something’s Afoot, this company’s weaknesses are on display more than its strengths.

A scene from Citadel Theatre's "Something's Afoot", directed by Wayne Mell.Something’s Afoot was written in 1972 as an American musical spoof of the British murder mystery genre, particularly Agatha Christie. We begin the play by meeting the maid, Lettie (a comically talented Kaitlyn Andrulis). Lettie, along with the butler Clive (Dennis Murphy) and the handyman Flint (Edward Kuffert), welcome all of the house guests to the estate of Lord Rancour on a stormy night with effective lighting by Deb Holmen. Each individual enters and embodies a different stereotype, including the young ingénue Hope (played by Sarah Breidenbach with the loveliest voice in the show), the flamboyant nephew Nigel (Mario Mazzetti), the eccentric modern major Col. Gillweather (sharply played by Andrew J. Pond), the Martha Stewart of detectives Miss Tweed (Debra Criche Mell) and more.

One by one they drop. Who is the killer? This spoof doesn’t play out quite as fun as it should with some of the songs bordering on pointlessly halting the show. However, other numbers, such as the first act’s “Something’s Afoot,” manage to further the plot and entertain. As a whole, the cast is underwhelming and at times cringe-worthy in their vocals and harmonies. Luckily, there are a few talented comedic actors who give the evening a handful of laughs. Pond is a standout, giving one of the more polished comedic performances of the evening. His death-by-poison bit is one of a handful of solid laughs in the show. Kuffert’s performance in the song, “Dinghy” is another highlight.

The ending of this parody in many ways pulls the rug out from under you. However, I don’t think Mell’s production quite earns the ironic ending because the rest of the play truly needs to be sharp and much quicker paced in order to achieve the intended effect of having the bottom drop out. Instead, this ensemble and production largely clunks its way to the ending revelation. Marianne L. Brown’s choreography often comes off as forced and robotic. The tap dancing is evidently beyond the cast’s skill level and rather plays as amateurish.

The cast of Citadel Theatre's "Something's Afoot" - Kate Andrulis, Sarah Breidenbach, Christopher Davis, Ed Kuffert, Mario Mazzetti, Debra Criche Mell, Dennis Murphy, Gerald Nevin, Ellen Phelps and Andrew J. Pond

Although serving the northern suburb community, as a Chicago area theatre Citadel must be considered alongside all of the amazing theatres in the city, meaning a show in the farther suburbs must be well worth the trip to recommend. Overall, Mell’s direction is too unpolished, overly presentational and unspecific. While I am usually apt to forgive a few performance mishaps, the performance I attended had a plethora of line flubs, technical jams and one long awkward pause where two actors stood like deer in headlights waiting for the sound operator to find their cue on the recorded soundtrack (another reason why you shouldn’t do a musical if you can’t get live musicians). It may have been an “off-night,” but with more dedication and professional artists involved those happen less, and would help distinguish Citadel from community theater and allow them to be on the same stage with the best of Chicagoland’s companies.

  
  
Rating: ★½
  
  

The cast of Citadel Theatre's "Something's Afoot" - Kate Andrulis, Sarah Breidenbach, Christopher Davis, Ed Kuffert, Mario Mazzetti, Debra Criche Mell, Dennis Murphy, Gerald Nevin, Ellen Phelps and Andrew J. Pond

Citadel Theatre’s production of Something’s Afoot continues through June 5th, with performances Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $35 ($32 for students and seniors). The space is located at the Lake Forest High School West Campus, 300 S Waukegan Road. Tickets can be purchased by phone (847-735-8554) or online. For more information, visit citadeltheatre.org.

  
  

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