Dig Baton Rouge

Murderous Romp

By Tara Bennett

Secret passageways, flickering lights and murder most foul will be taking over the stage this weekend as Independence Park Theatre presents its production of “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.”

Audiences will have a chance to solve the mystery surrounding this comedic romp that spoofs the great murder mystery movies of the 1940s. Performances will be held on Friday, August 15 and Saturday August 16 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, August 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance online or on the day of the show at the box office located at 7800 Independence Blvd.

“I think it’s a hilarious show from start to finish,” said director Jason Breaux. “I think it’s something that a lot of people around here have not seen, and I think a lot of people will enjoy it greatly.”

Breaux has been working at the Independence Park Theatre since 2005, and has worked every angle of theatre from stage managing, to lighting and directing. He made his directorial debut with the show “Run For Your Life,” and this will be his second time working as director for Independence Park Theatre.

Written by John Bishop, the story takes place at the Westchester estate of a wealthy woman, where mayhem ensues after a motley crew of characters gathers in the mysterious mansion to pitch a Broadway musical to potential producers. Revolving bookcases, hidden passageways and secret identities give way to a riotous homage found in the heyday of 1940s cinema.

“We were really looking to do something along the lines of a murder mystery dinner theatre-esque kind of show, and ‘Musical Comedy Murders’ kind of popped out,” said Breaux. “Not only is it a comedic murder mystery, but it also involves theatrical people and I thought it was really perfect for us to put on.”

The characters are not who they appear to be, and according to Breaux, his cast brings them all to life before the Stage Door Slasher keeps knocks ‘em dead.

“The rehearsal process has been wonderful,” said Breaux. “My cast is a great group of incredibly talented people. We have all become great, close friends and they have probably one of the best working relationships I’ve seen working in Baton Rouge. Really great group of funny people.”

Questions arise as to whether or not “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” is truly a musical or a play. While it contains snippets of songs from “White House Merry-Go-Round,” the show is not a true musical, but a comedy about a musical wrapped up in a murder mystery.

“It’s about people getting together to make a musical,” said Breaux. “It’s a straight American farcical comedy.”

One of the biggest challenges in putting on a farce is bringing the set to life, but the Independence Park Theatre met the needs to create an old mansion in Westchester, New York.

“Our stage is very large,” said Breaux. “We built a full set for the library the show is set in.”

It holds a similarity to the British farce “Noises Off,” which is based on looking at a show from behind the scenes. In a similar fashion, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” will take you behind the scenes of an audition for a musical with mayhem ensuing.

“It’s an American play, so it’s not going to get quite crazy as ‘Noises Off,’ but it uses the basic troupes of the four door farce, but kind of tones it down a bit,” said Breaux.

According to Breaux, the play utilizes the same ideas that are present in a standard British farce, including multiple entrances, people not seeing things and statements going over character’s heads.

“Probably the biggest difference in this show from the traditional British farce is there’s not so much sexual innuendo,” said Breaux. “It’s a comedy about people making a show in that era.”

With the crazy happenstances and murderous shenanigans, this show has the appeal of a live theatrical version of the film version of Clue.

“It’s very much like Clue,” said Breaux. “Basically take Clue and put a coating of musical show people over it and you have ‘The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.’”

For more information or to purchase tickets call 225-216-0660 or visit online at www.theparktheatre.com.

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