Whodunnit? You Decide
Shear Madness is sheer silliness. It also tests each actor’s aptitude for improv. Fortunately this cast, now on stage at St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre, is up to the task. They must be ready for any scenario and any audience interruption. They also have to handle any of their fellow cast-mates who may “corpse”. (Corpse is the theatrical term for when an actor laughs unscripted. It’s called a corpse because it is especially problematic if the actor gets the giggles while playing a corpse.) Of course, most audiences love to see an actor break up in laughter when they aren’t supposed to. In the case of a murder mystery, it’s especially funny.
Shear Madness is a murder mystery-comedy. It all takes place in a modern hairdressing salon. There are two hairdressers Tony and Barbara, a regular customer Mrs. Shubert, and three drop-in customers Eddie, Nick and Mikey. But are any of them really who they appear to be? And which of them is capable of murder?
Upstairs over the salon lives a famous concert pianist, rehearsing at her piano, planning her comeback. Her constant piano playing becomes annoying. Then suddenly, she is found in a pool of her own blood.
Two people are revealed to be undercover cops, and the audience works with them to recreate the comings and goings in the hair salon leading up to the murder. The audience can offer clues or ask questions. By the conclusion of the second act, the audience votes on who they think the murderer is!
This is an old play, yet edited and changed for times and location. It’s all set in the Waterloo area, and a few pokes are made at little old Palmerston. It’s updated, too. When Mrs. Shubert comes in to have her hair done, it is piled high under her hat. She pulls off her hat and her obstinate blonde hair sticks out in all directions. She is told she looks like Trump, to the delight of the audience.
Robbie Towns and Jacquelyn French are excellent as the hairdressers. Towns is charmingly flamboyant, while French has great fun as the buxom, gum-chewing Barbara. Kevin Sepaul plays the undercover detective, while Greg Pember is his nerdy sidekick. Both get lots of laughs with their hilarious stereotypes. Andrea Risk is Mrs. Shubert, trying to hide her affair, and Gord Gammie is the antique dealer. They add to the suspense as potential suspects. The entire cast keeps the laughs coming, and easily handles any curve balls thrown by the audience.
Don’t be late for this show. In fact, make sure you’re seated about 20 minutes early. The action on the stage begins long before showtime, as the day begins in the hair salon. Then you must be available throughout the intermission: there is activity on stage, and the police detective goes to the lobby and asks questions of those on their way to the washrooms or those standing in line for drinks.
When the cops are finished all their detective work, the audience is asked to vote on the killer. Amazingly, the show finishes with the audience’s choice of murderer being carted off to jail! Obviously, this is a show you’ll want to see several times and you can arrange a different ending on each visit!
Shear Madness continues with eight shows a week until April 15 at The Schoolhouse Theatre, St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs. Tickets are available by calling Toll Free 1-855-372-9866 or Local Box Office 519-747-7788 or check www.draytonentertainment.com
Photo: Jacquelyn French, Andrea Risk and Robbie Towns in Shear Madness. Photos by Liisa Steinwedel.
By Paul Portner
Directed by Bob Lohrmann
Performed by Jacquelyn French, Gord Gammie, Gregory Pember, Andrea Risk, Kevin Sepaul, Robbie Towns.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
The Schoolhouse Theatre, St. Jacobs
September 12 to December 23, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson