Honestly, I was Clueless.
“You’re going to LOVE it… It’s so good; it may be one of the best musicals Oxford has done… The cast couldn’t be anymore perfect,” I heard bubbling from a gaggle of teenage girls in line in front of me as we waited to exchange our $5 bills for a construction paper “admit one.” The hype was so real for award-winning Oxford High School’s latest season closer, “Clue: The Musical.”
It’s just what it sounds like- the characters and weapons blew up like they got zapped by Szalinski’s “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” resizing ray gun and they took the stage to solve the years old dilemma- who killed Mr. Boddy? Was it Ms. Scarlett in the lounge with the knife? Or could it have been Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the lead pipe?
The house lights fell as the characters took the stage, only illuminated by the glow of an LED game board of the rooms of Boddy’s mansion behind them, their individual spotlights, and their game-piece pedestal that was color coordinated to their name, lined up in a row across the stage. They would hop down from their pedestal to dive headfirst into their solos and duets, but always return to their designated cube while Mr. Boddy narrated and wove in between.
Mr. Boddy invited three previously selected audience members, two young teenage girls and a curly-headed preschool-aged little boy, to come on stage and pick which cards would be slipped into the golden manila “Confidential” file, determining the outcome of the show. With 216 different possible outcomes, only Mr. Boddy knew the audience-chosen scenario and he guided the cast and audience as they played along with their game cards, given out as they took their seats. With every hint, we were one step closer to solving the classic homicide- or at least some people were.
As a former Charger who’s seen dozens of plays and musicals in the Kayla Sue Mize auditorium since my awkward middle school days, I knew the quality of production that director John Davenport expects. I saw my friends sob from his criticism when they starred in his shows only to conquer the stage, beaming after being refined by fire. I could just feel in the pit of my soul that I was about to be blown away once more.
The characterization was spot-on. They exuded personality, each as opposite as the colors that they portrayed, even though they all wore gothic black and white and looked, according to the detective, “like they just walked off a Tim Burton set.” Ms. Scarlett was sexy and flamboyant and Professor Plum was goofy and overly intelligent, while Ms. White was aggressive and… British?
They all played their roles to a tee, but the character that stole the show was, hands down, Mr. Boddy. With his shadow of a beard, his drooping under eye circles, and his black top hat strapped with mad-scientist-esque goggles, he was perfectly over-dramatic without being annoying. His cheesy jokes evoked chuckles from the audience with occasional rogue cackles throughout the crowd. Maybe it was his interaction with the folks watching that made him so intriguing. His guidance and leadership felt connecting and comforting, like you were sitting at your family dining table rolling the dice, making accusations.
Also, let’s talk about the music. Each character had their individual moment in the limelight, each of which were pretty good, but not incredibly astounding. When the choir came in for support though… wow. Their harmonies blended together like the perfect peanut butter banana smoothie. The voices from the choir fluffed and inflated the sound, and when the silence fell, a moment lapsed between the final note and the first clap as we all absorbed the thickness and beauty of the ringing acoustics.
Unfortunately, I walked away underwhelmed, and it hurt a little. Halfway through the play, I looked down at my game sheet, and I was lost. I had missed some of Mr. Boddy’s clues, and once you miss one, you’re a burned little piece of toast. There’s no way to recover unless you cheat- and then that’s no fun, is it?
While the costumes were beautifully gloomy and the music swelled, but only with the chorus’s accompaniment, the storyline felt stagnant. There is only so much drama you can create and attention you can hold when the whole premise is “who killed Mr. Boddy?” It looped round and round in circles, never really getting to the point until the final few moments. It felt tiresome- I was counting my yawns, faking enthusiasm by the end. Just tell me who, what, and where… I’ve waited long enough.
It was worth the $5, but would I go see it again? Maybe only to see how a different set of cards affects the twists and turns of the plot. The show had its highs, it had its lows, but it wasn’t the standing ovation, ‘how-are-these-high-school-kids’ quality that Oxford normally churns out show after show. My conclusion- five stars out of ten.
Maybe next time, OHS. Maybe next time.