Whodunnit? Who cares? That's the impression I was left with at the end of Something's Afoot, a trifle of a musical murder mystery by James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, currently being revived by Goodspeed Musicals. The real mystery is why anyone thought this bagatelle was worth bringing back at all.
Something's Afoot borrows its basic structure from Agatha Christie's classic novel, And Then There Were None, progressively bumping off a series of guests invited to a weekend getaway at a gloomy mansion on the proverbial dark and stormy night. The cast is populated by various tropes from the genre: the blithe ingénue, the mysterious stranger, the kooky Cockney maid, the randy groundskeeper.
But, rather than aiming for thrills and chills, Something's Afoot is supposed to be a spoof. However, there's very little genuine wit in either the plodding libretto or the desultory lyrics.
That said, there were frequent chuckles from the Goodspeed audience members – even the occasional guffaw – but hardly the raucous laughter the show clearly seems to be aiming for. But, then, we're dealing here with creators whose idea of humor is having a character sing a song about how he's got a "tiny little dinghy."
What's worse is the songs don't so much add to the drama as continually delay it. In fact, virtually all of the songs could disappear and the story would still make sense. Still, the game cast, which includes some of New York's best actors, including rising star Hunter Ryan Herdlicka and the divine Lynne Wintersteller, give the production a certain buoyant charm.
A more arch performance style, or perhaps more inspired choreography, might have partially redeemed the show, or at least elevated the proceedings above the uninspired material. But much of the work of director-choreographer Vincent Pesce (a replacement for Casey Hushion) rarely rises above the serviceable. At least the sumptuous unit set, which received applause when the curtain rose, and the numerous special effects provide some visual gratification.
As was true of the original production, the program for this Something's Afoot exhorts audience members not to reveal the show's surprise ending. That the authors would expect people to talk about the show at all seems presumptuous.