Mayhem’s afoot in world premiere of whodunit ‘Clue’

Top to bottom, Eleasha Gamble, John Treacy Egan, Kathy Fitzgerald, Donna English, Elisabeth Yancey, Michael Kostroff and Alex Mandell in the comedy “Clue” at Cleveland Play House. [Ken Blaze]
Top to bottom, Eleasha Gamble, John Treacy Egan, Kathy Fitzgerald, Donna English, Elisabeth Yancey, Michael Kostroff and Alex Mandell in the comedy “Clue” at Cleveland Play House. [Ken Blaze]

The new comedy “Clue” is campy, manic fun at Cleveland Play House, a world premiere stage adaptation of the classic Hasbro board game and 1985 Paramount film.

It’s a murder mystery but it’s all done tongue-in-cheek, from the dark and stormy sound effects to the sexy French maid (Elisabeth Yancey as Yvette) to the farcical way the main characters run around the Boddy Manor, where the 1954 story is set. Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet have all been summoned by letter to Mr. Boddy’s mansion in New England but they don’t know why.

Playwright Sandy Rustin has adapted “Clue” for the stage, with additional material from Hunter Foster and Eric Price. She was developing the new work in Cleveland and tweaking the script up until a couple days before previews began late last month, the actors said in a talkback after Sunday’ show. (Rustin is also developing a new musical for Disney and is adapting the MGM film “Mystic Pizza” for the stage.)

Cleveland’s production of “Clue” is in preparation for a national tour scheduled to launch in 2021, the theater said. This cast of guests is tight, from the doltish Colonel Mustard played by John Treacy Egan to the daffy Mrs. Peacock played by Kathy Fitzgerald and the nervously nerdy Mr. Green (Alex Mandell), a germophobe who always has rubber gloves on him.

It turns out that all six guests are hiding secrets. But would they kill to stop them from being exposed?

The clues are melodramatic from the start, from the organ chords and hateful stares that ensue when Mrs. White (Donna English) first sees Yvette and Mrs. Peacock gives the stink eye to the Cook (Mariah Burks). These women clearly know each other but we don’t know how.

This whodunit has blackmail and multiple murders, which leaves the guests scrambling to figure out who the killer is. It’s a madcap romp as they get themselves into crazy situations popping through trap doors, trying to animate corpses and slamming multiple doors in the mansion’s huge, two-story foyer.

Overseeing it all and trying to keep the six guests in line is Mark Price’s Wadsworth, the stuffy butler. Rounding out the leads are Eleasha Gamble as the sophisticated Miss Scarlet and Michael Kostroff as the brainy Professor Plum.

Director Casey Hushion creates some highly comical visuals, including an unexpected number of choreographed moments that range from a tango to a spiraling-out pattern of running for the zany guests. Even a death scene has some choreography in it.

It makes sense that most of these actors have Broadway or national tour backgrounds: Hushion is currently resident director for “Mean Girls” and “Aladdin” and has numerous other Broadway directing credits.

Every female character’s costume is built from scratch at Cleveland Play House with beautiful period silhouettes. Remarkably, once a character has been hit with one of the game’s classic weapons it becomes part of a costume that remains on the character. That means for characters whacked on the head, a lead pipe or candlestick may become a hat or headpiece.

Of course the story brings some fun twists. And of course there’s no way that audience members will figure all of these murders out. But they can have fun in the lobby before the show playing Clue and checking out kiosks with questions that deduce which character they’re most like. As for me, I’m most like Professor Plum, “the smartest one in the room.”

The show continues at the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square through Feb. 23. For tickets, which cost $20-$97, call 216-241-6000 or see

‘Stand Beside Her’ essay contest

The Akron Symphony Orchestra, which is celebrating the influential work of six women composers/artists this concert season as part of the Stand Beside Her project, is accepting submissions for its Stand Beside Her Essay Contest for high school students. The project is in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees and protects women’s constitutional right to vote.

The contest challenges students to write an original creative essay about influential women composers. The maximum word count is 1,000 with a minimum of 700, not including citations and bibliography. A list of composers is available at but students may also select a composer not on the list.

See for all essay requirements. Essays will be judged on understanding of the subject matter, originality and quality of the writing.

Winners will be notified by May 1. A $500 prize will be awarded to the winner, who will also receive four complimentary tickets to the orchestra’s May 16 concert. Two runner-ups will receive two tickets each to the concert. The winner, both runner-ups, and their guests will also receive a pre-concert backstage tour and Green Room reception at E.J. Thomas Hall.

The contest deadline is April 15 at 11:59 p.m. (EST). Students may submit their essay online at or mail it, postmarked by April 15, to Stand Beside Her Essay Contest, c/o Akron Symphony Orchestra, 92 N. Main St., Akron, OH 44308.

All students must complete and submit a registration form online for student and school information. Email Kimia Ghaderi at with questions.


In my column last week about Verb Ballets’ “4X4: Four Works by Female Choreographers,” the ballet company cited an erroneous source for statistics regarding female choreographers. Research by California-based choreographer Amy Seiwert and colleague Joseph Copley showed for the 2012-13 season that for U.S. ballet troupes with budgets exceeding $5 million, just 25 of the 290 ballets (less than 9 percent) staged were choreographed by women. Seiwert and Copley did their research independently and were not affiliated with the Dance Data Project.

Piano concert

Pianist and historical keyboard specialist Matthew Bengtson will perform at 5 pm. Feb. 23 at Kent State University in place of pianist Yoonie Han, whose appearance has been postponed to a future season due to unforeseen circumstances, the university said.

Bengtson, who is on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, will perform on his personally owned 1785 Anton Walter-style fortepiano, an early piano. He will perform works by Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach; as well as Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 10 No. 3, Mozart’s Sonata in C minor and Haydn’s “Fantasia” in C major.

He will perform in Ludwig Recital Hall, 1324 Theatre Drive. Cost is $8-$15, or free for those 18 and under or full-time Kent campus undergraduates. Call 330-672-2787 or see

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Mayhem’s afoot in world premiere of whodunit ‘Clue’