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THEATER: Ventura County | NOTES

Tunes and Clues

Musical numbers add pace to parody of an English mystery.

April 09, 1998|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Give the Conejo Players credit for coming up with something different: "Something's Afoot," their current production, is a genre-crossing parody of an English drawing-room mystery, during the course of which the cast breaks into several musical numbers. It doesn't always work, but it's fun.

Several people, all strangers to one another, are summoned to the country home of Lord Rancour. Even though Rancour is a stranger, everybody takes advantage of his invitation. But when they arrive, he isn't there. And then the bodies start piling up in the witty script by James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach.

On hand are butler Clive (Dick Johnson), caretaker Flint (Mark Johnson) and maid Lettie (Melanie Rose Maynard). Before long, they're joined by chirpy Hope Langdon (described, accurately, in the program as "the Ingenue"), family doctor Grayburn (David Berg), Rancour's sinister nephew, Nigel (Anthony Silk), blustery Col. Gillweather (Terry Fishman), and--it's about time--amateur detective Miss Tweed (Louise Bushnell, in a standout performance).

If those aren't enough stereotypes, "foxy Oxford coxswain" Geoffrey (Tom Hand), drops in, claiming to have been stranded in a boating mishap.

The acting and singing is of variable quality, strengthened by recognizable characters and situations (longtime fans of the Elite Theater Company will swear they've seen this mystery without the jokes or songs) and by inventive murder "weapons" facilitated by an intriguingly designed stage set.

Linda Stiegler is director and musical director; Charles Padilla leads the happy five-piece band.

* "Something's Afoot" continues through May 9 at Conejo Players Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $8, Thursday; $10, Friday and Sunday matinee; and $12, Saturday. For reservations, call 495-3715.

*

'Beggars' Last Stand: The Flying H Productions staging of the new "Beggars!--the Musical" has been held over at Ojai Center for the Arts, its extended engagement concluding this weekend. Pierre Vuilleumier and Jody Kasch took over the significant roles of Macheath and Mrs. Peachum. It's a challenging task (Macheath is one of the leads), and for one reason or another, many cast members seemed a bit off at Friday night's performance. Still, the show has much to recommend it, performances included, and chances are good that everybody will be back up to speed this weekend. Then, John Cowsill returns as Macheath; Friday only, Jaye Hersh replaces Julie Christensen as Pirate Jenny.

* "Beggars!--the Musical" continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St. Tickets are $20; $15 for center members, students and seniors. For reservations, call 646-8353.

*

Addenda: Larry Janss of the Gold Coast Performing Arts Assn. writes to say that many audition notices for the upcoming production of "A Little Night Music"--though not the one we received--stated that two leading roles had been filled in advance, by Dale Kristian and Amanda McBroom.

Those looking to see a new theatrical production should have no trouble the weekend of April 17, when six (so far) shows are scheduled to open: the Holocaust drama "A Shayna Maidel" at Cal Lutheran University (493-3410); Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Gondoliers" at Moorpark College (378-1485); David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" at Ojai Center for the Arts (646-8353); Sam Shepard's "True West" at Theater 150 (also in Ojai) (646-4300); Agatha Christie's "The Unexpected Guest" at the Arts Council Center in Thousand Oaks (381-2747); and (tentatively) "The Sound of Music" at Camarillo Community Theater (388-5716).

The next weekend is also full, thanks to "Whose Life Is It, Anyway" at Ventura College (654-6462); "The Heidi Chronicles" at Cal Lutheran (again); the English thriller "An Inspector Calls" at Santa Paula Theater Center (525-4645); and the aforementioned "A Little Night Music" at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theatre (Ticketmaster: 480-3232). We'll get to them as time and space permit.

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