When the best comment you can make about a show is the set design you know you’re in trouble. This is the case with the murder mystery musical comedy, Something’s Afoot, the last offering of the Goodspeed Opera House’s current season. When the show was first announced it was, to quote the King of Siam, a puzzlement. When you think of a Goodspeed production you point to the inspired direction, a classic score, and creative dance numbers. Most shows also have a storied history. Something’s Afoot has none of these. In fact, when it reached Broadway in the mid-1970’s it was a huge flop. Maybe the reason for producing the musical is nostalgia. The show premiered at Goodspeed 40 years ago.
Creating a murder mystery musical comedy has always been fraught with difficulties, which is why so few have been produced in Broadway history. You can count them on one hand—Redhead, starring Gwen Verdon and Richard Kiley in 1959; and Curtains, starring David Hyde Pierce in 2007. In addition to creating a cohesive book and score, there is the added responsibility of developing a satisfying mystery to keep the audience’s interest. There is also the extra burden of stopping the action to insert a song or big dance number, which in this genre can be achingly difficult.
Something’s Afoot is part Agatha Christie and part the board game Clue. All the ingredients for a murderous time are present—a creepy mansion, washed out bridge, a Miss Marple know-it-all type, the stoic butler, young romantic lovers, a retired English Colonel, as well as other archetypal mystery characters. Slowly, one-by-one, they each meet an untimely demise. As the bodies pile up the audience is left to guess who. While the deaths are inventively staged, the plot by James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach is rather boring. A few flourishes pique your interest every so often, but overall the story is flat. Even the denouement is unfulfilling. The score by the aforementioned group plus Ed Linderman is uninspired and has more the feel of a college production.
Director/Choreographer Vince Pesce has the cast dashing on and off stage, posturing on the staircase, and maybe ramping up the actors’ performances a bit too much. Audrie Neenan, as the amateur sleuth, seems revved up on caffeine becoming almost manical in her role. The other cast members try their best with the material provided.
In all, Something’s Afoot is something to miss. Wait until Good News roars in next season.