DECATUR — Rarely will a Theatre 7 director and cast allow an audience to control their play. However, for the first show of their season, it’s mandatory.
“Clue: The Musical,” which mirrors the iconic mystery board game, will be on stage Friday through Sunday, Oct. 13 through 15 and Oct. 20 through 22, at the Decatur Civic Center.
Director Tanya Haubner involves the audience as part of the show from the beginning. Before the opening act, three audience members are invited to enter the stage. Each will pick a card to determine a suspect, weapon and location for the murder of Mr. Boddy, the narrator of the show.
“He runs the game,” Haubner said. “He pretends to move the characters just as you would move the pieces when you are playing the game. He controls their actions and movements.”
Mr. Boddy, played by Ben Wilson, is murdered by a list of possible killers. As in the board game, the characters' names are associated with colors: Mrs. White, Prof. Plum, Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, and Miss Peacock.
“They all have a motive for killing Mr. Boddy,” Haubner said.
A detective comes on the scene to determine who killed Mr. Boddy, in what room and with what weapon. “Just like the board game,” Haubner said.
At the end of the show, everyone in the audience will receive a form allowing them to assess who the killer is. Haubner said the play has the possibility of 216 endings.
“At the end of the game, we find out whether you are right or not,” she said. “It changes every night.”
Mr. Boddy interacts with the audience throughout the show. “He knows the audience is there watching him play this game,” Haubner said.
The cast also interacts with the audience, with characters at times mingling through the seats begging not to be chosen as the killer.
Many of the actors find the interaction and audience participation an appealing change of pace.
“This show has a lot of improv in it,” said Brock Hayden, who plays Professor Plum.
The format allows the actors and audience to connect in an enjoyable way, he said.
“It makes it more accessible to the audience if you are speaking directly to them as opposed to acting as if they’re not really there,” Hayden said.
“It would be boring if you didn’t,” said Emily Steele, who plays Mrs. White. “Because it is a board game, we are supposed to play together.”
The role has allowed the actress to stretch her talent. Steele said the ending variations and the audience participation can present a challenge.
“It forces us to be creative,” she said. “We have to change in response.”
Theatre 7 cast and directors have gotten positive feedback from their past murder mystery dinner theaters. They wanted to tackle a more interactive, larger theater production with "Clue."
Haubner was attracted to the show because it is family-friendly. “Kids love to play the game. So bring your kids out and pretend you are playing a board game,” she said. “We encourage the kids to come and experience live theater.”
Another aspect of the “Clue: The Musical” children and young adults may find interesting is the set and costumes.
The cast describes the setting as turn-of-the-century, modern Victorian. The characters are dressed in steampunk fashion. “It is Victorian clothing, but with gears,” Hayden said.
“Clue: The Musical” is kicking off the Theatre 7 season of Murder, Mysteries and Mayhem. This musical was the first play the cast wanted to perform.
“Everything else just fell into place,” Steele said.
Future Theatre 7 shows include Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” and “The Murder Room.”
The cast found the date of their first show was ideal for the theme as well.
“Solve the mystery on Friday the 13th,” Steele said.