MANITOWOC – Colonel Mustard killed Miss Scarlet with the lead pipe in the Billiard Room.
This line originated from one game, the indisputable game of murder and mystery — Clue.
Nostalgic. Iconic. It is a game and a franchise, beloved by millions.
Manitowoc’s The Masquers community theater group will bring a bit of that nostalgia to the Capitol Civic Center with its production of “Clue: On Stage.” Performances are May 12-14.
Birth of a cult classic
In 1943, the creation of one of the world’s most beloved board games was derived from an English musician and factory worker.
In Birmingham, England, while holed up in his home as air raids bored the city, Anthony E. Pratt and his wife, Elva, killedom with a fun little game they created.
Thus, the British game Cluedo was born (renamed Clue for the American market).
For decades, this fun murder mystery game has become a staple in millions of homes around the world.
Its popularity was so vast that Paramount Pictures based a film off the board game, creating yet another medium for Clue fans to adore.
The 1985 film, directed and written by Jonathan Lynn and starring Tim Curry, has since garnered a considerable cult following.
And now, The Masques hope to entertain you with a new medium to enjoy the adored classic — the stage.
A long road to the stage
The iconic cult classic will take the Capitol Civic Center stage under the seasoned direction of Masquers’ returning director Claran LaViolette.
For LaViolette, being able to direct this production was a “bucket list” dream show that nearly didn’t come to be.
After surviving a rigorous selection process, Clue was first slated for The Masquers’ 89th season.
Although The Masquers were ready to produce the show, the rights to the production were not available to community theaters at that time.
The play was then moved to The Masquers’ 90th season.
Then, COVID-19 happened. Theaters shut down. Clue was reluctantly postponed, yet again.
And now, finally, The Masquers’ and LaViolette’s dream of putting on this fun little murder show is coming true.
A ‘simple, yet complicated’ show
LaViolette’s desire to direct the production came from her love of the 1985 film.
“It’s a movie you can watch 10 times and see something different every time,” she said. “The characters have become iconic. They are so quirky, outrageous and fun. They are over-the-top ridiculous. This show is simple, yet complicated, and that makes it fun.”
The comedy of the show is a big draw to the cast members. Many of them couldn’t wait to tap in to their comedic sides.
Tim Brey, who plays Wadsworth, was ecstatic to tackle the role and finesse its more comedic elements.
“The variety of character and the variety of comedy,” Brey said, speaking of what in the show appealed to him, “with the writing and dialogue, it’s a real smorgasbord of humor and fun.”
The comedian in Brey was also fascinated with how a board game could become a stage play.
“It’s kind of clever and not an easy thing to do,” he said.
Local comedienne Kathy Kowalski jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the production and gladly accepted the role of Mrs. Peacock.
“Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this show? I love my comedies,” she gushed. “I wanted to be Miss Scarlet,” joked the comedienne, “but the dress didn’t fit!”
However, Clue is more than just a comedy. Clue has been a household name for more than 70 years, passing from generation to generation, giving rise to a film that is proving to stand the test of time as well.
The question is, why?
“The themes are really classic: death, murder. It has everything that spans across the decades. Black widows … all the themes are there,” Darcy Gravelle, who plays Mrs. White, said with a chuckle and a twinkle in her eye.
‘Everybody likes a good mystery’
For some actors, it’s all about the nostalgia.
When asked about the show’s appeal, Corrie Skubal, playing the scintillating woman in red, Miss Scarlet, replied: “Everybody likes a good mystery. … I absolutely loved the game as a kid. I was always asking my parents to play all the time. I loved being the detective and figuring things out.”
When asked what she hopes the audience will take away from the production, she said with a smile, “I hope it brings back some good memories from their childhood as well.”
Aside from the promise of great comedy, mystery and nostalgia, Clue has yet another trick up its sleeve. The set is “a character all its own.”
Upon accepting the role as director, the set was the one part of the production LaViolette feared the most.
Creating a mansion with various rooms that must change at the drop of a hat is no simple feat; the challenge was monumental.
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And set designer Warren Schmidt answered the challenge’s call: “It’s a huge beast. From the first time I read the script, the set is supposed to move and change. No one has done this show the way it is written in the script. People are going to be amazed. It’s a living, breathing thing … it’s like the game. Secret passages, doors and walls change in ways you wouldn’t think, and the real challenge was to make all the moving components work while keeping the set stable. I hope we make it through!”
Clue has a little bit of everything for everyone. A little mystery, a little comedy, a little murder, a whole lot of nostalgia, and one “living, breathing” set that is certain to impress.
Come to laugh. Come to sleuth. Whatever tickles your fancy, you’ll find it at this production.
“I want the audience to leave with side aches and sore cheeks from laughing,” LaViolette said. “It’s a hilarious show, and my cast could not be better. They’re truly bringing these characters to life.”
Clue is certain to be one wild ride.
If you go…
What: The Masques, Inc., presents Clue, adapted from the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn, written by Sandy Rustin, adapted from the Paramount Pictures film written by Jonathan Lynn and the board game from Hasbro, Inc.
When: 7:30 pm May 12-14
Where: Capitol Civic Centre, 913 S. Eighth St., Manitowoc
Tickets: Are available at the Capitol Civic Center box office, online at cccshows.org or by calling 920-683-2184. Tickets are $23 for adults and $15 for students ages 18 years and younger