Something's Afoot

Book, music and lyrics by James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach
Additional music by Ed Linderman

Directed by Peter Westbury

June 24th - 28th, 2003

The Tower Theatre performing Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate


Cast List

Lettie : Rosalind Moore
Flint : Michael Allaway
Clive : Nigel Martin
Hope Langdon : Katey D'Ancona
Dr Grayburn : Marcus Toulmin-Rothe
Nigel Rancour : Ralph Ward
Lady Grace Manley-Prowe : Denyse Macpherson
Colonel Gillweather : Tom Tillery
Miss Tweed : Eileen Marner
Geoffrey : Nicholas Cannon
and the voice of ... Dominic Batty


Production Team

Director : Peter Westbury
Musical Director : Terry Hawes
Set Design : Alan Root
Lighting Design : Nick Insley
Sound Design : Laurence Tuerk
Costume Design : Kay Perversi
Choreographer : Anna Twilley

Stage Manager : Jane Pallant
ASMs : Nigel Martin, Roanne Insley, Lesley Scarth
Lighting operator : Jacky Devitt
Sound operator : Sheila Burbidge
Wardrobe : Kay Perversi

Review by Vivienne McKone for the Islington Gazette

The Tower Theatre Company moves Upstairs at the Gatehouse to perform this amusing musical whodunit. Something's Afoot, first performed in the West End Stage and on Broadway, is an Agatha Christie spoof. The action begins with a family invited to a lavish country house for a supposedly fun weekend. But they are left isolated after a storm and then find that the butler has been killed. As suspicions turn to an uninvited guest, the family happily continue on with the weekend. Gunshots, an exploding stairway, a giant man-eating vase, a booby-trapped telephone, and a poisoned dart from an African mask hanging on the wall keep the audience amused as the guests are eliminated one by one in true murder mystery fashion.

And this is a very different style of whodunit -all the characters spontaneously burst into song. Musical director Terry Hawes delivers some great musical pastiches, and the lyrics are very funny at times. Choreographer Anna Twilley gives everyone the right actions to keep up the humour and Peter Westbury, long-time Tower Theatre member, superbly directs this delectable cast. This is enjoyable family entertainment proving that this lost musical was worth retrieving.

In-house review by Richard Pedersen for "Noises Off"

In 12 year's time Richard Pedersen might just be old enough to audition for one of the older men's parts in Something's Afoot. He likes wearing false beards on stage.

Something was definitely afoot at the Gatehouse Theatre on Midsummer Night - pure theatrical magic in Peter Westbury's production of the off-Broadway musical by James McDonald, David Vos, Robert Gerlach and Ed Linderman. It was a warm evening, the theatre was stifling but the Tower's well-drilled cast gave us all a memorable experience. Something's Afoot is, let's face it, a piece of theatrical fluff. Over-the-top barely describes it. The dialogue is self-consciously stilted and the songs are not particularly memorable. It sort of parodies Agatha Christie, and in particular the multi-murder novel Ten Little *******, but in many ways the Queen of Crime is beyond parody. It is described as a musical whodunit but I really didn't mind who the murderer was, being more intrigued as to which cast member would be next to meet a wonderfully gruesome end.

Hang about - what was I doing laughing at people dying? This play had more corpses than Hamlet, each one dutifully disposed of in the library with a minimum of fuss and little in the way of grieving or remorse. Stop it, you're taking this much too seriously; this is not a play that needs serious analysis. A minor problem with the play is that is actually very American. I gather that much of the joke in the original production was that the actors were all American trying, not very well, to produce cod English accents. With a thoroughly British cast this joke couldn't go anywhere. I was slightly taken aback by one of the characters referring to a "happenstance", and by one of the musical numbers praising Franklin D. Roosevelt, but that's the script.

The company of ten actors gave us spirited performances all round, although their ranks kept being depleted. First, Nigel Martin as the butler fell victim to exploding banisters just as dinner was served, then Marcus Toumin-Rothe as the quaintly Scottish Dr Grayburn was gassed by a booby-trapped telephone. Immediately before the interval, Denyse Macpherson who had just delighted us with a wonderfully vampy rendition of Ginger Moustache in her role as the gloriously-named Lady Grace Manley-Prowe, electrocuted herself on a light switch. Ralph Ward, as the bumptious "legal heir" Nigel, fell victim to a Miss Muffet-like spider, then Tom Tillery's grizzled Colonel Gillweather was hit by a poisoned dart from the carved African mask on the wall.

Am I giving too much of the plot away? The programme urged me not to reveal the end so I'd best be cautious. The ultimate disappearance had to be that of Lettie the maid, played by a pert Rosalind Moore, who after an innuendo-loaded duet with Michael Allaway's Flint (a groper), leaned too far into an incongruously large Ming vase and was swallowed up whole. Miss Marple (sorry, Miss Tweed) was expertly played by Eileen Marner. Of course, she came no nearer to solving the mystery than anybody else before she too fell victim to the murderer's evil machinations and was slain by a suit of armour. That left the two ingenues, the sweet, helpless little Hope, played by Katey d'Ancona and the equally squeaky-clean and toothsome Geoffrey, played by Nicholas Cannon. As archetypes go they couldn't have been more archetypical, but they sang and moved superbly, and I was bowled over by Ms d'Ancona's stunning soprano voice.

As readers might guess from the above, so much of the joke depended on a host of special effects, which all worked superbly. There was a bit of a clatter when I believe the suit of armour fell over, but it was the first night and the cast weren't thrown. I was just so impressed that the company could rustle up such a set as this, with all its fiendish devices in such a short space of time. Had this been at the Tower Theatre I might have been blasé about it, but all credit must go to Peter Westbury and to set designer Alan Root for coming up with an interesting, workable set in a strange environment. No detail was spared, including the portraits of ancestors hung around the walls of the theatre.

While handing out the plaudits I mustn't forget Terry Hawes on the piano nor Anna Twilley, a veteran of the 1991 production, who drilled the cast in their dance steps. Costumes, by Kay Perversi, including the wigs, were just right for period and setting, and all credit to most of the cast for managing a rapid and seamless costume change shortly after the start of the play. Bangs and flashes, of which there were many, were in the capable hands of Nick Insley and Laurence Tuerk (design) and of Sheila Burbidge and Jackie Devitt (operation). Everything worked like a charm.

Being the first night there were occasional line hiccups, and there was a moment in the second half where it seemed that the three characters on stage had lost the plot, but these were quickly brushed over and were barely noticeable. I do regret, also, that I didn't claim my seat sooner. Sitting on the side of the stage, I found my view of the action frequently restricted by the backs of other actors. I know it's a problem of this theatre, but I felt that maybe the director could have been a little more careful about the blocking, especially when there was such a large cast on stage.

All things considered, this was a super show and congratulations to all concerned. I well remember the 1991 production, again directed by Peter Westbury with a set by Alan Root, and I was able to dig out my programme. So, in many ways, this was a revival, albeit with a brand new cast. Who knows, if we revive it again in 12 years time I might audition myself.