Mr. Green With a Knife in the Study

Clue: The Musical brings the classic board game to life, complete with multiple endings

Nov 7, 2001 at 4:00 am
When we first heard that West County's Curtain Call Repertory Theatre would be performing a musical based on the board game Clue, we had to wonder just how much closer humanity had crept toward the apocalypse than we'd realized.

What's next? A musical based on Monopoly (featuring the songs "You'll Never Pass Go With Me" and "Damn! How Come I Never Win the Free-Parking Jackpot?")? Candyland? Parcheesi? Boggle?

Well, as it turns out, Clue: The Musical, as you might expect, isn't exactly loaded with catchy numbers, and it didn't last long in New York when it debuted off-Broadway in 1994. It does however, have a fun aspect that probably no other musical can claim. The writers have fixed it so that watching the musical is closely akin to playing the board game.

As they file into the theater, audience members are given enlarged versions of that checklist printed on the pads of paper that come with the Clue game, along with those little golf-course pencils. Three audience members are chosen to come onstage and select oversized cards, reproductions of the suspect, weapon and room cards from the game. These cards, representing the killer, the murder weapon and the room in which the tragic offing took place, are slipped into an envelope marked "confidential" that hangs in the middle of stage during the show.

A cast member or two examine the cards that weren't selected to determine which cards were chosen, and the cast and piano player are informed whodunit in backstage whispers. Then the lines and the songs of the show change accordingly. With six potential killers, six weapons and six rooms, there are 216 different ways to do this musical, and the cast members don't know exactly what they'll be saying and singing until the beginning of the show.

The musical's book and lyrics supposedly give audience members enough clues to figure out the answer to the puzzle so they can use their powers of deduction and their checklist to narrow down the possibilities. During intermission, the concessions and box-office workers also offer hints to the Clue-less. At the conclusion, you'll know whether you guessed right.

Clue co-director and Curtain Call artistic director Dennis Shelton acknowledges that the musical numbers, which include "Corridors and Halls," "She Hasn't Got a Clue" and "Seduction Deduction," may not thrill you. He says that "the songs are not the best-written songs," and you probably won't be humming them as you exit the theater, but the whodunit aspect of the experience is unique and fun.

Curtain Call is also noted as the community-theater group forced to seek a new home when the conservative management of the West County YMCA balked at their decision to stage La Cage aux Folles. Curtain Call will perform that musical in February at their new home, the Faust Park Carousel House, and will mount an outdoor production of Into the Woods in the park's amphitheater in June.