Musical Murder Mystery Mayhem
If you enjoy lively musicals and whodunit murder mysteries, then The Last Resort, now on stage at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, is just the ticket! It’s actually a three-in-one show – comedy, mystery and musical rolled together. The Last Resort is an all-Canadian creation, with the script written by Canada’s favourite comedy playwright, Norm Foster, and music and lyrics by Canadian musical theatre composer, Leslie Arden.
The show opens with a spooky introductory song – all we see are faces lit by flashlights under the chin on the darkened stage. And of course, there is the requisite thunderstorm and lightning flashes.
Seven strange characters check into a Saskatchewan resort that has seen better days. There’s Nick Galeazzo (Justin Bott), the big city restaurateur who has come to the backwoods incognito as Ed Willoughby, to hide out from the mob under the protection of Agent Angela Miller (Kristen Peace) who’s working undercover as Mrs. Willoughby. Then there’s the tourist couple Sid (Eddie Glen) and Liz (Susan JohnstonCollins), who are trying to rekindle the romance of their 24 year marriage. There are also twins Julia and Jessica Youngstead, (Jayme Armstrong) on their way to the controversial reading of their father’s will. Finally, we have the poet Trent Balfour (Dan Payne) who’s looking for a rendez-vous to overcome his writer’s block – which has lasted seven years. All the guests at the resort meet their hostess, Freda Heitz (Wade Lynch) who is an interesting character to say the least. When one of the twins dies suddenly (Was that the evil twin or the good twin?), we meet Inspector Closely (Keith Savage), the policeman in Bermuda shorts and knee-high socks.
Along with interesting plot twists, Foster’s clever use of language keeps the audience laughing. He is the master of double entendre and innuendo. In this story, he even has fun with the characters’ names. When the police inspector arrives to investigate the murder, he wants to go upstairs to see the elevator shaft. The German-accented resort owner introduces herself, “I’m Freda Heitz”, to which the inspector says, “Well, maybe you’d like to wait down here.” The entire show is one corny joke after another. Fortunately, Foster creates new humour; it’s not stale corn.
It’s an all-star cast – and every character has perfect comedic timing. Justin Bott’s jumpy terror is hilarious, and Kristen Peace’s tough FBI agent, who also has a sexy side, keeps the audience laughing. Eddie Glen and Susan JohnstonCollins are perfect as the tacky tourist couple in their matching outfits. Drayton’s frequent leading lady, Jayme Armstrong, plays twin Julia in her usual perky and cute way, but stretches her style a bit as the evil twin Jessica. Dan Payne keeps the full attention of any ladies sitting in the front row as the amorous and very pretentious poet. Wade Lynch excels as the German hostess, Freda, especially when no one will let her sing! The very popular Keith Savage, Drayton’s favourite funny man, owns act two as the detective who solves the mystery. Savage gets laughs just by stepping on stage, and he keeps everyone in stitches with funny steps and dance moves throughout.
Credit goes to Director/Choreographer Marc Richard and Musical Director Steve Thomas for keeping up the fast pace. Thomas plays the piano in the lobby of the resort and even gets to join in some of the on-stage fun.
Eric Summerley’s set is well done, cluttered with a stuffed moose head and various other antlered creatures, as well as resort memorabilia. And yes, that rectangle on the wall is indeed a map of Saskatchewan. Jessica Bray’s costumes are excellent, especially – as strange as this sounds – the Brazilian outfits.
The final number of the show asks the audience not to reveal any spoilers and tell whodunit. So you’re just going to have to go and see for yourself!
The Last Resort continues with eight shows a week until March 22 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check http://www.draytonentertainment.com/
Photo: Eddie Glen, Susan JohnstonCollins, Kristen Peace, Jayme Armstrong, Dan Payne, Wade Lynch, Keith Savage and Justin Bott in The Last Resort. Photo by Gary Moon of Moonlighting Photography.
The Last Resort (2015)
Music & Lyrics by Leslie Arden
Book by Norm Foster
Directed & Choreographed by Marc Richard
Musical direction by Steve Thomas
Performed by Jayme Armstrong, Justin Bott, Eddie Glen, Susan JohnstonCollins, Wade Lynch, Dan Payne, Kristen Peace, Keith Savage.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs (Waterloo)
March 4 – 22, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson