Augustana Theatre brings board game to life

Put on your detective cap and bring a magnifying glass. There’s been a murder in the Edith Mortenson Center and the Augustana Theatre Department needs help solving the mystery as it performs Clue—The Musical this weekend.

Based on the board game, which has sold more than 50 million units since its 1949 release, the musical delves deeper into the lives of Clue’s iconic (and now comedic) characters, from the sultry Miss Scarlet (senior Noelle Starnes) to the burly Colonel Mustard (junior Logan Swanson).

“Watching these iconic characters come to life brings back really fun memories of playing the game,” said Ashlyn, Himley who will be playing Professor Plum. “And seeing how the characters interact with each other is even more exciting because when I was 11, I didn’t realize or understand the complex relationships the characters have with each other. The relationships and dynamics are so much fun to dissect and play with.”

With six rooms, six weapons, and six suspects, the musical could end in 216 different ways (though its catchy, upbeat songs stay the same no matter the night).

For the actors and actresses, that means extra dialogue to memorize and a demand that they think on their toes throughout the 90-minute mystery. Yet, it’s precisely this reason that theatre director Jayna Fitzsimmons chose Clue to begin with.

“What’s really exciting is that this show has multiple endings, and we have a lot of students right now who are interested in improv and that kind of spontaneous thinking,” Fitzsimmons said. “Even though these aren’t improvised endings, it still taps into that part of your brain.”

For instance, there is one possibility that the person playing the murderer may not know it until a certain line is delivered live on stage.

And whether you grew up playing the game in the 50s or the 90s, Fitzsimmons says the production stage and costume design will emit nostalgia for the play thanks to technical director Jacee Casarella.

“Part of the research that we did was looking at the many different versions and iterations Clue has gone through throughout the years,” Fitzsimmons said. “And how can we tap into the commonality and present something to the audience that will be instantly recognizable and yet still surprising?”

The production team has transformed the tabletop game into a three-dimensional world, where the audience can see all six iconic rooms inside the mini mansion, from the conservatory, to the billiard room, to the lounge and even the elusive hidden passageways.

And given it’s a musical, you can expect senior Carli Bollin to be playing the grand piano in the ballroom throughout the show.

Inside the playbill, the audience will find the familiar “Detective Notes” playing card to fill throughout the play. Also, there to guide them through the mystery is the corpse itself, Mr. Boddy (senior Coleman Peterson), who will act as a narrator hinting at any suspicious activity that might be lurking about.

With the fourth wall demolished, Fitzsimmons said there is an additional element of unknown added to what is already a murder mystery.

“I always think of the audience as the actor that joins the cast the night of the performance,” Fitzsimmons said. “They bring such a specific energy depending on what night it is, who’s there and so that brings an element of the unknown to a play.”

Himley said she’s excited for the unexpected possibilities that comes with breaking the fourth wall.

“With a show that relies on audience participation and reaction, the cast members have to be open to and willing to react with them. As a leader of BNi (Brand Name Improv) here at Augustana, I love ad-libbing and improvising and I am looking forward to interacting with the audience,” said Himley.

In addition, Fitzsimmons said the nature of Clue—The Musical challenges actors to be extra “free and wacky” in their performances.

“Musical theatre is a huge style, and farce is an even bigger style,” Fitzsimmons said. “So when you combine musical theatre and farce, you ask actors to really stretch past their boundaries…It’s delightful, it’s funny and it goes by quickly. Everyday, I’m surprised by what these actors bring to the table.”

The show will run in the Edith Mortensen Theatre on Mar. 1, Mar. 2, and Mar. 4 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Mar. 3. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and free for Augustana and k-12 students.


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