Behind the Scenes: Satirical musical mystery opens Friday at CEU
|Sheri Gillis playing the part of Lettie is fitted for the maid uniform by Dr. Corey Ewan, costume designer of the production.|
We walk into the dim-lit theatre on opening night, planning to enjoy an evening of drama produced by the local college theatre group. As the curtain rises we see the beautiful designed stage and as the plot unfolds actors and actresses, dressed in perfectly matched era costumes perform for the large audience. But do you ever think of how the stage was designed? Do you ever give it a second thought about designing the sets, creating the costumes and the hours of practice each actor must put into his or her role?
Often newspapers give an overview of the play, even stage a few photos of the production, complete with costumes and a perfect set, and announce the opening night. This was done for "Something's Afoot," which is a zany, entertaining musical that takes a satirical poke at Agatha Christie mysteries and musical styles of former years. The comedy, presented by the College of Eastern Utah Theatre Department, will be the final production of the season. It opens tonight, April 15 and runs Friday and Saturday night of this week and again April 19 and 20, all at the Geary Theatre.
However, rather than the typical story about the setting and the characters I began attending the play practice shortly after the roles were cast and just when construction of the set began. For the past six weeks I have taken occasional photos and watched the stage grow from a few walls and doors to a magnificent set. Today the stage takes you to a country estate of Lord Dudley Rancour, located on an island in the middle of a lake, somewhere in the English lake district. As the stage opens tonight you will see the entrance hall to Rancour's Retreat, not like any entrance hall one has ever seen. I have seen the room grow from a stack of lumber to a large, two-story room with doorways and hallways leading to the library, the study, the kitchen, and the servants' quarter. I know what's behind the set and in this case under it and above it. I watched as Tim North, the technical director built the large door leading to the outside. I was there as Grady McEvoy, director and Angela Kay Roundy, stage manager, discussed with North the essentials in the furniture, props and architecture that are included in the play.
The rehearsals were intense and deadlines for play practice popped up every week. I watched the characters learn their lines and practice their songs.
Not having directed a play since 1994, McEvoy thought it was time again to put his hand in the pot and stir it a bit. "Something's Afoot has been one of my favorite productions since I played Dr. Grayburn at Utah State University's Old Lyric Repertory in 1980." he says, adding, "This being my fourth production of Afoot, I find myself trying to create a new stick, along with keeping my favorite old stick from the past."
"The performers you will see are a very mixed bag of old hands and new hearts, top CEU's performance world, a blend that gives this production its fun, unpredictable and sharp edge. I hope you enjoy the show's British tongue in cheek humor," adds McEvoy.
The group began rehearsals four and half weeks ago, which is short of the normal time it usually takes to put a musical together. Chorographer Lynda Johnston, pianist Jennifer Chiara and music director Russell Wilson have all spent long hours working with the actors and actresses for the full musical. "There is as many lines sung as spoken," explains McEvoy.
There are also a good number of costumes, all depicting the late 1930's era, although many costumes look like the 1970's, especially those worn by the men. Dr. Corey Ewan designed the costumes and explained that for this murder mystery musical, the characters are stereotypical and therefore they wear a combination of travel wear, dinner wear and period clothing.
|Amy Rasmussen and Phil Smith practicing their lines.|
The process of pulling together the costumes, getting them as close to accurate as possible is always a challenging job and come from many sources. The butler's tail coat for example comes from the production department at Brigham Young University, while the maid's apron was sewn by Ewan to match the black and white uniform. "Because it's a comedy or spoof the costumes can be a little comical," explains Ewan.
The set design is a combination of the old, new, borrowed and salvaged. The ottoman, giant vase and chandelier are all new, but the doors and walls, desk and fireplace are all reused from previous productions. "We couldn't afford to produce the plays if we had to start over each time." explains North, saying that almost everything is recycled at one time or another.
The cast includes Jacob Dickey, Melissa Trowbridge, Sam McGinnis, and Amy Rasmussen, all of Price; Sheri Gillies, Layton; Jarad Crown, Salt Lake; David Bohnet, Orem; Alexis Cline, West Jordan; Phil Smith, Magna; Lorin Bruns, Tooele; and Diana Halford, Farmington. The production is stage managed by Angie Roundy.
Other behind the scenes names include Diana Halford, Kennedy Byrd, Todd Olsen, Sam McGinnis, Sam Bailey, David Shamo, Robert Chesley, Sam Brown and the CEU Cosmetology department.
"Something's Afoot" tells the story of 10 people who are stranded in an isolated English country house during a raging thunderstorm. One by one they're picked off by cleverly fiendish devices. As the bodies pile up in the library, the survivors frantically race to uncover the identity and motivation of the cunning culprit.
And just when everything was coming together, Phil Smith, who had prepared throughout the entire rehearsals to play the part of Colonel Gillweather, had an appendicitis attack and McEvoy, the director, is learning the lines. Such is life in show business, "Because the show must go on!"
The play opens tonight and reservations for the shows are available by calling 613-5334.