Photo album: Lion Players Theatre Company Presents ‘The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940’
Spring High School Sophomore Toneelea Shaftner, from left, and senior Gabriel Saenz rehearse a scene from “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.”
HOUSTON – Nov. 9, 2018 – It is 1940, and the specter of war hangs in the air. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is still a year away, but World War II has already enveloped Europe and much of the world, and Americans everywhere are tense and on edge. Into this historical background comes Spring High School’s latest theatrical offering, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” with performances at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8, 9, 10 and 12 in the school’s performing arts center.
“I love this show,” said Spring High School Theatre Director Kathy Gallas-Beyer, who is helming the production together with Technical Director Franklin “Trey” Otis. “This is actually the third time I’ve worked on it and my second time directing it. The characters are fun, it’s well-written, and it’s a great ensemble show with a lot of physical comedy.”
Written by John Bishop and first produced in 1987, the play (which is not in fact a musical) tells the tale of the creative team behind a recent Broadway flop, one in which not just one but three chorus girls were murdered by a mysterious “Stage Door Slasher.” The desperate need for a financial backer for their new show leads the group to the estate of a wealthy potential investor. Once there, both comedy and mayhem ensue, as the murderer makes yet another appearance.
The play is many things — a murder mystery, a period drama, an antic comedy, a sweet romance, and even a play-within-a-play. According to Spring High School senior Gabriel Saenz, who plays the part of comedian Eddie McCuen, it is also an exploration of how darkness and light – or fear and laughter – can interact in our lives and in the world.
“It was a very tense time, because America was in fear of being invaded by the Germans,” said Saenz during a break in one of the final dress rehearsals before opening night. “The author uses the trope of a murder mystery to shed some humor on a dark time in American history.”
Junior Makaila Heath, who plays the role of Marjorie Baverstock, agreed, adding that even in dark times, humor is still a part of everyday life.
“We look back at that time in our history,” Heath said, “and we’re like, ‘That was such a sad, sad time. It was so awful and so horrible.’ But we forget that people still had real lives, and just because there were so many bad things happening in the world doesn’t mean that they weren’t still laughing and joking around. And so the play incorporates the seriousness of the 1940s, but it gives you a laugh, too. It doesn’t weigh heavy on you.”
Tickets for the show are $5 for students and $8 for adults and can be purchased at the school’s box office prior to each evening’s performance, as well as online through the Lion Players Theatre Company website, www.lionplayerstheatrecompany.com.