The Musical comedy Murders of 1940


Tiffany Tran, Opinion Editor

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, by John Bishop, was chosen for this year’s annual fall play. The drama features a murder mystery with many unique and eccentric characters. These characters are only shown in one room with many different corridors and secret passageways that connect to other parts of the house. The story has many twists and turns, making it difficult for the audience to anticipate what happens next. 

One of the first characters introduced in the play is Elsa Von Grossen Knueten, played by sophomore Bianca Norton. This was Norton’s one of many plays she has participated in and did outstanding with her Transatlantic accent and her avant-garde mannerisms. When asked about how she felt about the opening night she said, “Yeah, I thought it was really good. I did think maybe the audience will be a little bigger but I wasn’t like disappointed, especially because they were reactive, which is what you want out of an audience. I would prefer a smaller audience that’s having a great time and laughing at the jokes and like, surprised when people die and whatever, rather than a big group that’s quiet or whatever. But it was a good opening show, we pulled it together.” In terms of the theater, quality trumps quantity.

Surprisingly, there was a small side story involving the potential romance between two characters. One of which was Nikki Crandall, played by junior Piper Joven. This role was what she originally had her eyes on and was a “dream come true” for Joven. At first, Nikki is a shy but excited girl who is ready to audition for the musical as it could be her big “break” in the industry. After catching the mysterious murderer, it’s revealed that Nikki is an agent from the US Naval Intelligence sent to capture a German serial killer.

The other side of the dynamic duo comes from Jacob Healy’s character, Eddie McCuen. Eddie is a rising comedian with a sort of slapstick comedy. Just like Nikki, he believes that this audition may be his chance to be noticed in the industry. At first, his personality is very timid towards others, especially Nikki, but the hero within him shines through at the end when it was time to defeat the villain. At the beginning of the drama, his attraction for Nikki was painstakingly obvious. Their small interactions were very wholesome and a cute addition to the play. Right before the production ends, Eddie kisses Nikki and there was lots of cheering for the two. His goofy character contrasts well with Nikki’s serious personality.

A character with many different plot twists that revolved around them was Mr. Patrick O’Reilly, played by senior Kyle Denison. This part was not Denison’s first choice as, “Originally I was trying out for Eddie, and then as time went on, I never really looked at O’Reilly. And then they kind of brought the role up. Once I found out he was Irish, I really took on the role and embodied him. I am Irish myself, so I found a place in my heart for him.” Later in the story, Patrick O’Reilly is discovered to be one of the killers. He steals one of the other character’s police badges to cover up his tracks and takes on the persona of an Italian undercover cop. O’Reilly’s plan is quickly put down as his true identity as a Gestapo agent is revealed. He is soon killed as another character kills O’Reilly through a bookcase. Although there were many exciting twists and turns throughout the second act, many audience members were confused about what was happening.

Kyle Denison is one of the two seniors on the cast of the fall play. This is also his first time performing for the play throughout his years at North. He has wanted to act in plays in previous years, however, things had gotten in the way for him. One Acts was one of the few options he had available to participate in. Since this is his final year as a Husky, Denison wants to enjoy all the things he hasn’t done before he leaves. His thoughts on the play and how it went were, “I think it went outstanding, went better than we had ever imagined. I know one of the hardest things for me was I was worried about memorizing my lines. And it just came naturally to me as I kept going. I know so many other people in the play also had trouble with that and it just got better. We just all helped each other to get through it. We ended up having a great opening night and we had an even better Friday night. So it was just outstanding to see that and then closing night and our swing night were just perfect. It was really good.” 

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 was a great production with an amazingly hilarious cast. I went during the opening night with my friends and the energy of the cast and audience was incredible. My friends and I were laughing hysterically even though some of the parts acted were probably not specifically made for jokes. One problem that we had as audience members though was that the story was a bit confusing to follow. The actor Preston Muir originally played the role of Helsa Wenzel, as well as Helsa’s twin Deiter, and another unknown character to interrupt Nikki and Eddie’s kiss at the end. Muir’s acting was great but I didn’t understand the change in characters fully until I had people from the production explain it to me. I also felt that it was difficult to differentiate who specifically killed who throughout the play. There are multiple killers and the majority of the murders that occur are orchestrated by an actor dressed in all black to keep the murder a secret from the audience.

 Even some cast members, like Bianca Norton, found some difficulty in understanding the events of the play. “I wish the plot was a little more understandable and consistent like, I don’t know I even I’ve read it a million times. I know it, front-to-back, the whole show and it still doesn’t make sense. So I can’t imagine that watching it once or twice would make a lot of sense. But I mean, doesn’t matter. You’re along for the ride.” Norton was right about being along for the ride. Although this rollercoaster of a show had many loops and turns, the journey and its ending were worth going through.