Sharpen your detective skills and get ready for a real whodunit. The case? An eight-person Missoula Community Theatre cast at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts with “Clue: The Musical.”
The play is not a musical version of the 1985 movie but rather an adaptation of the Parker Brothers board game, to the point that the actors in the production acknowledge that they are little more than games pieces come to life.
“They are very self-aware, they make jokes about having been in the box, they joke about other games like Life and Sorry,” said Joe Martinez, director of “Clue” and artistic director of the Missoula Community Theatre.
When a detective character shows up to investigate the murder at the start of the show, the characters mock him as not being a part of how the game is supposed to go.
True to the idea of a board game being played out live on stage, audience involvement is a major part of MCT’s “Clue: The Musical.” At the start of each show, three audience members will be invited on stage to pick out the oversized cards representing the room, weapon and suspect that will be the focal point of that night’s performance.
Only the character of Mr. Boddy, who narrates and controls the movement of the performance, will know exactly which cards go into the envelope. Altogether, there are 216 different combinations that can change the ending of the play, and each production will be different from the ones before it.
“So every role has multiple parts they might play, and they have to memorize the different versions of Miss Scarlet or Mr. Green,” Martinez said.
The entire audience will also be given score cards to check off as the play goes on, with Mr. Boddy speaking to them between scenes to help them narrow down the list of possible crime scenarios.
To keep the play moving and avoid downtime when a new scene moves to another of the six “rooms” from the board game, MCT is employing a rotating circular stage. The setup means the crew can be preparing the next scene while the current one is playing out, then have a team of four people under the stage rotate the circular platform when it’s time to go from the ballroom to the conservatory.
“It’s really just wild, out of control mayhem for two and a half hours,” Martinez said.
Part of the fun of working in a community theater setting is the entire volunteer cast and crew are very invested in the performance, Martinez said. He left MCT from 2005 to 2011 to work with a professional theater company and said they had a different approach to acting. While they certainly enjoyed being on stage and took pride in their performances, at the end of the day it was a job.
“Here, people give two months of their time with the only reward being on stage and performing. There’s a passion for it,” he said.
Since the start of December following auditions, the cast has been working three or four hours per night, five days a week to get ready for the show.
“You throw the costumes at them, throw the set at them and they get so thrilled about it,” Martinez said.
In addition to the actors, a 16-person volunteer crew be working on “Clue” as well as a three-piece band that will perform live for the musical. When he is setting out the scale for a show, Martinez said he always tries to challenge the cast without overwhelming them.
“I think I dream too big, but the people who work here make it happen, they trust what I see,” he said.