Sunday, October 3, 2010 - MetroWNY.com
Do you have what it takes to solve a murder mystery case?
Come and find out at the Lancaster Opera House, as "Something's Afoot," a musical murder mystery produced by the Lancaster Regional Players, that will keep audiences guessing to the end about who the real killer is, as well as taking a satirical jab at the Agatha Christie's "who dunnit?" murder mysteries.
The show opened recently, but will continue to run at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 8 and 9; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10. The show is directed by Bob Alonzo, with musical direction by Dan Schroeder, with choreography by Kathie Ann Montante Prospero.
The story takes place in an isolated English country estate during a raging thunderstorm, with 10 individuals who are stranded. One by one, they are killed in mysterious and in hilarious ways as they try to discover the murderer's identity. The situation is complicated by rising floodwaters, power failures and suspicious behaviors carefully noted by Miss Tweed, an elderly amateur detective, who is played by Gail Stengel of Sloan.
In the 1990s, Stengel lived in California for nine years, and when she came back to Buffalo she decided to pursue her love for acting and studied theater at Studio Arena for a few years. She has performed in three plays written by Karen White-Walker, a local playwright from Newfane, and this will be Stengel's second performance with the Lancaster Regional Players.
"I just love to entertain, make people laugh, and I love to sing. I have always been kind of a class clown. I just enjoy performing," remarked Stengel.
Although Stengel has acted in several plays, this will be her first time performing in a musical.
"It is very different from regular acting. There is so much more to concentrate on and learn. You have to be able to blend with the actors in an entirely different way with the singing and harmony. It was a little daunting at first, but it is coming along really well," commented Stengel.
Stengel added that the show is upbeat, even though it is a murder mystery, and she thinks the audiences will be very entertained.
"It is going to be a really good show. Some have compared it to, 'Ten Little Indians,' as it was similar. All the guests were invited to this remote place, and one by one they were murdered, but it wasn't comedy. The comedy
helps a lot. It is just a lot more enjoyable to watch and be a part of," said Stengel.
In her first performance with the Lancaster Regional Players, Karen Eichler of Lockport will be playing the role of Lady Grace Manley-Prowe, who is known as the "Grande Dame."
Eichler took a different road in acting; she has been performing improvisation since 1997. After she went to see a performance of the improvisational comedy TV show, "Whose Line is it Anyway," she knew she wanted to become an improv comedian. She studied at Second City in Toronto and eventually joined the group called "Defiant Monkey Improv," through which she performs shows and teaches improv classes, along with fellow actor Andrew Spragge, who performs as Nigel in "Something's Afoot."
A few years ago, Spragge encouraged Eichler to take the next step in acting and she finally decided to try out for a role in the play "Noises Off," which was held at the Palace Theater in Lockport.
"I always sort of wanted to perform in theater, but I was terrified of the memorization as most theater people are terrified of improvising. But I got a part and I proved to myself that I can hold it in my head long enough," said Eichler.
"I have done a ton of musical comedies. I have danced. I have done it all, but they were all in five minutes or less, based on something someone shouted. This is the first time I will have to sing on purpose and hit the notes they want me to hit. I am somehow managing," added Eichler.
William Steffen of Olean will be performing as Colonel Gillweather, a familiar role which he played about 15 years ago, but this time around he said he has a different grasp on it.
"I am much older and wiser now. When I did this role before, I was in my 20s. I have done a lot of repeats of shows, and they're all different; either the director brings a new twist or the different actors you are playing across from give you a different twist," said Steffen.
Steffen started in theater when he was a young child due to a speech impediment. His speech therapist recommended that he pursue theater, because in theater you have to think before you talk.
"I had a stuttering problem, and my speech therapist said my brain was thinking too fast for my mouth. So, that is why I was stuttering. She had me memorize a paragraph so my brain had to think, and it slowed down everything and it kind of cured my speech impediment. Every once in a while it will still come back," remarked Steffen.
Since that time, Steffen has done shows all over Western New York, and to date has performed in more than 65 shows.
Steffen said the audience can expect a lot of laughs, talented actors, and a fantastic set to bring the story of "Something's Afoot" to life.
Coming up in December, Steffen will most likely be in the Lancaster Opera House production of "Rudolph," a show he has been in for the last four to five years. In June, he will be directing the play "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," which will premiere in Olean.
"As a true actor, I think an actor needs to dabble in every aspect of the theater in order to get the full concept of theater - not only just acting. I think that helps as a director, too," said Steffen.
The cast also includes: John Lynch (Clive) of Williamsville; Nikki Markey (Hope) of Hamburg; Vince Martino (Dr. Grayburn) of Orchard Park; Katy Miner (Lettie) of Buffalo; Gary Stevenson (Flint) of Depew; and Darren Wojcicki (Geoffrey) of Buffalo.
The Lancaster Opera House Box Office is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before curtain on show nights. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors/students. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 683-1776 or by visiting www.LancOpera.org.
Article by Jennifer Lysiak
Lancaster Regional Players, PO Box 51, Lancaster, NY 14086