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2007:   How Do They Do It?
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SOMETHING'S AFOOT

11 January 2014

Julia2.jpg (48809 bytes)First off, I have great readers! Thanks to Kume, I know that the "cat lady" was really the "bubble lady," in real life Julia Vinograd, profiled in this 2004 article. Thanks, Kume! Apparently she was still sitting around in the Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue, at least in 2004.


Tonight we went to the Woodland Opera House to review Something's Afoot, a musical parody of Agatha Christi's "Ten Little Indians."  It has been 30 years since I last saw that show...and yet I remembered everything as if it had only been yesterday.

The Lamplighters produced this little gem of a show in 1984 and it stands out as one the highlights of my years working with the company. Gilbert was the director, as well as the musical director for this show. My friend David was in charge of props--there were were a ton of them in this show.

sa-set.jpg (25576 bytes)The show also had one of the most beautiful sets in Lamplighter history.  It was a shame that nobody took a photo that did it justice.   For what is essentially a community theatre, the set designer/builder (Stephen McCandless) produced a 2-story English manor house that was so elegant we all wanted to move into it.

The premise is that five people are invited to spend the night in a mansion on an island. Each of them, of course, has his or her secret, and unbeknownst to each other, they all have paths that cross. Of course, after all have arrived, a terrible storm comes up, which washes out the road and the bridge and they are stuck there. The master of the house (whom we never see) is found dead by the butler, who is blown up as he stands on the stairs and delivers the news to the invited guests.

The rest of the show consists of each of the guests, and the house staff, being killed in various bizarre ways: one is hit over the head by a newell post, one is "eaten" by a Ming vase, one is choked by a bunch of spears hanging on the wall, one is blown up in a kitchen explosion, two are poisoned and one is killed by a poisoned dart fired from a shrunken head hidden inside a "pouf." (a "pouf" is a round couch-like affair)

Paul-SA.jpg (109174 bytes)For the dart effect to work, Gilbert needed someone small to fit inside the pouf to manipulate the shrunken head, so he asked Paul if he'd like to do it. It involved Paul coming out on stage in the dark before the lights went up for Act 2 (while the pit band was creating a diversion) and then after he killed the colonel at the start of the act, he had to lie there for the rest of the show.

I was Gilbert's assistant on the show, so attended almost every rehearsal and for the final week, Paul and I moved down to stay with my mother because there were tech rehearsals every night.

Because I was always around I got to be part of the "orchestra." Uh....sort of. In the first musical number, the music is interrupted periodically by the arrival of a new guest, each of whom rings the doorbell. Gilbert had it in his head that each "ring" would have a different tone to it (though they were all the same bell). He planned to ring the bell himself, while he was conducting the band. I convinced him to let me be the bell ringer. Talk about being a nervous wreck opening night. I only had to ring the bell five times but I was so afraid I'd do it "wrong." But once I got over opening night jitters, it was fun to attend each performance and to feel like I was a part of it all.

There was something special about Something's Afoot. Everyone involved in the show has such a special place in their heart for it. Maybe it was because it was such a small show--no chorus, no large orchestra. There was genuine affection among all of the people, on stage and off stage, who were involved.

At the last performance, Peggy Ray Roberts, the actress who played Miss Tweed (the "Miss Marple"-type character) even called Paul out from under the pouf to take a bow. There were tears all around.

That was a golden time in my period of participation with The Lamplighters. It was 1984 and we couldn't possibly have predicted that in two years, 55 year old Gilbert would be dead of a heart attack and Arthur Conrad, who was the butler in the show, would be dead of AIDS.

The Woodland Show was very good -- not on a level with the Lamplighter show, but good (except that there are no doorbells in this production! Harumph!). I mentally followed along with all the songs, remembering all the lyrics.  The actors made the roles their own, of course, and they were each quite good in those roles...

SA-WOHgrp.jpg (236959 bytes)

...but I'm afraid all productions of this show (even the one the Lamplighters did after Gilbert died) pale in comparison to that first Something's Afoot.  How lucky I was to have been a part of it all!     

PHOTO OF THE DAY

afoot.jpg (265916 bytes)

1984 - The Something's Afoot cast,
a loving family

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