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And Then There Was Fun 

Something's Afoot is a musical mystery that proves murder can be amusing.

For those who like their theatrical treats on the airy side, cotton candy is available these evenings at Beck Center. Something's Afoot, by James McDonald, Robert Gerlach, and David Vos, a wafer-thin musical spoof, takes aim at the most insubstantial of targets: those English manor-house mysteries read by little old ladies of both sexes.

Gathered at an isolated manor house on an island are the usual assortment of English archetypes: a stiff-upper-lipped aristocrat; a bumbling colonel; a rather vacuous doctor; an aloof lady of fashion; a leering, black-toothed gardener; a young, featherbrained ingenue; a virile college student; and a stout, elderly spinster, as well as an eccentric butler and a gawking Cockney maid. In brief, your average Masterpiece Theatre cast is present. They have been summoned to the manor by an unseen host and, in the tradition of And Then There Were None, are bumped off, one at a time, in diabolical though clever ways.

Interspersed between the Grand Guignol goings-on are some hoofing vaudeville and English music-hall-flavored numbers with amiable if silly lyrics and Boy Friend pastiches of period numbers. Miss Tweed (Lissy Gulick), a Miss Marple stand-in, coos a marching number called "Carry On" with spears. Gorgeously ghoulish Adam Hoffman as the gardener, Flint, gives the evening its most authentically British number with "My Little Dinghy" (pun intended), in which he highsteps with Lettie the maid (Rachel Spence).

Lady Grace Manley Prowe (June Austen Pruc), Nigel Rancour (Kevin Joseph Kelly), Geoffrey (Chad Bryant, who looks like a Troy Donahue teen idol), and even Clive the butler (Jim Reilly) do their respective musical turns, shuffling, tangoing, and cakewalking to oblivion, as the entire cast is finally disposed of.

Jon Rubenstein appropriately directs, with a feather duster up the cast's collective keister. A couple of the more bland cast members could use an extra goose, but generally, they carry on with ersatz British aplomb. It's all light, flippant, and about as substantial and long-lasting as a happy-hour canape at a gathering of Anglophile mystery buffs. See it for your funny bone's sake.

--Joseph

Something's Afoot, through April 3 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, 216-521-2540.

More by Keith A. Joseph

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