Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Murder Mystery Musical
Andy Jordan Productions
Venue: Musical Theatre @ George Square
Morgan is dead and as a motley crew of quirky folk gather on an island to say their farewells, one by one they start meeting violent, often eccentric, deaths. This is a witty, whimsical mix of pastiche, high camp and comedy- all played to their utmost by a terrific ensemble cast. Very English, very sharp and very funny, Murder Mystery Musical is exactly the kind of show one wants to see at the Edinburgh fringe.
This is the kind of musical people don’t write anymore. Boasting neither the showbizzy seriousness of a Jerry Spinger nor the over-produced earnestness of last year’s Only the Brave, Murder Mystery Musical owes more to the quaint English oddness of Lucky Stiff or even Edwin Drood. With a design reminiscent of Shockheaded Peter and numerous dollops of Sweeney Todd in composer Richard M Brown’s score, it is clear from the start that we are not in the realm of the serious or even the sinister here.
The simple conceit – a bunch of friends meeting to say goodbye to their deceased friend Morgan – conceals an eccentric plot. One by one this assortment of oddball characters (femme fatales, a PI, a lust-object waiter) are bumped off, having been warned in a beyond-the-grave recording by Morgan that they would be. Then the reasoning behind their bizarre deaths emerges and those who remain have to watch and wait for who will be the next hit.
There is nothing authors Shaun McKenna and Alistair Cameron won’t do to secure a laugh from this hokum, whether crudity (of her husband’s death while making love, Alexa Brown’s Taffeta explains: “I thought he’d cum. But he’d gone.”); puns (Photographer: “I never shot sunsets, I shot people.”); and even music-hall one liners: “Issues” someone emphasizes, “Bless you” another replies. It’s no surprise that the arrival of the Belgian detective introduces not only a selection of Belgian disses (what did they ever do to us?) but a succession of “I’m a dick” type jokes (“I come from a long line of dicks” – that kind of thing) but as played by Sevan Stephan (entertainingly OTT) all of them land.
Yes, it’s silly but at least it’s clever-silly, and not to appreciate the terrific pacing of Ben Keaton’s production or the comic timing of his cast would be to reveal oneself as a complete sourpuss.
First among equals in a uniformly strong cast are Gina Murray, an eyepatch-wearing Cruella De Ville whose every utterance seems laced with arsenic (and yes, of course, fun is to be had with that word- it’s that kind of show) and who can dead-pan like a trooper; Alexa Brown whose steely detachment as Taffeta Tremain is as if a character from the House of Elliot had suddenly found herself spending the day with the Addams Family, and Charlie Cameron, the Olive-Oil-esque blond bimbo whose endless legs get no end of working out as she body pops for her assorted admirers.
Save for the choreography, neither professional enough to match the production’s many stengths nor quite tacky enough to fit the tone, Murder Mystery Musical is the perfect Edinburgh Fringe event. The impression is of a show which is not using Edinburgh as a market place for a future life (it would be hard to imagine such whimsy going further) but rather just wants to be enjoyed in its own terms here and now.
A terrific light bite of a show.