A Review of the Touring Production of Clue at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre

As a child, I frequently played the murder mystery board game Clue with my siblings and friends. I remember playing the game consistently poorly. Not having the patience to carefully examine the necessary clues, I would quickly make a guess as soon as I had the slightest inkling of a possible murder scenario. Having a proclivity for alliteration, I usually suspected Professor Plum. Not having access to many murder weapons, I was drawn to the allure of murdering someone with a candlestick. My thoroughly middle-class imagination also assumed conservatories were the most probable location for high society manslaughter. Consequently, I regularly pinned the murder on Professor Plum, with the Candlestick, in the Conservatory. 

Regardless of my persistence, I was seldom correct beyond the occasional outcome of random chance and probability. My failure to succeed in Clue dissuaded me from pursuing a career as a private detective. Along with learning what I was not good at, Clue also taught me how to pronounce the word colonel. After a very lengthy argument with my older sister, I was informed by my mother that despite all logical and rational indicators, I had been consistently mispronouncing Colonel Mustard’s name. This was a hard kernel of truth for me to swallow and I slightly wince when I hear the word today.

As I entered Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, I was excited to see if the creators of the show held my distrust of Professor Plum or my affinity for candlestick bludgeonings. As I am a regular reviewer of 5th Avenue shows, I also entered the theater expecting to experience a musical. If I had read any of the publicity for Clue, I would have known that nowhere in the literature is the promise of a musical. The play Clue is an adaptation, revision and updating of the movie Clue, that was also not a musical. However, my poor sleuthing was oblivious to that reality, and I entered the theater without a clue of what was about to transpire. I was also aware that I would use the phrase “without a clue” at least once in my review.

I would like to say I only took a couple of minutes to realize that Clue is not a musical. However, in full transparency I must say that I was about 10 to 15 minutes into the show before I finally gave up on the notion of a musical. Also, when I say 10 to 15 minutes, I am most likely misremembering the actual 20 minutes I held onto the notion that somebody at some time was going to finally break out into song. 

I even began to write my own lyrics, “We haven’t got a clue what’s going on, but there’s gonna be a murder tonight. There’s gonna be a murder, there has to be a murder, I guess they’ll be a murder tonight.” I’ll spare you the long tap dance sequence I roughly choreographed. I do remember thinking about 20 minutes into the show that I would definitely not write about any of this in the review.

Anyway, the non-musical Clue is a repeatedly funny, enjoyable play full of plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. It starts a bit slow but picks up traction as the plotline becomes more ridiculous and the comedy becomes less word play and more physical. The ensemble cast is excellent with some standout performances from the actors who had the privilege of playing the more well-written characters in the show. 

Mark Price (Wadsworth) plays the butler with just the right amount of zany energy and increasing absurdity. For the comedy to work, Price must navigate from subtle to extremely broad comedic timing. He succeeds in anchoring the show and guiding the audience through the more absurd constructs of the night. John Shartzer (Mr. Green) puts his full physical comedic talents on display, garnering from the contortions of his body some of the biggest laughs of the night. 

For me, the show is strongest when it embraced its zany, tongue-in-cheek self. Clever dialogue usually evokes mild chuckles, but people flailing, tumbling, and dying comedically can make a room burst out in heartfelt laughter. I personally laughed out loud enough times to make the night enjoyable. Obviously, for a comedy, laughter is pretty much the litmus test. Clue isn’t life changing. It isn’t Death of a Salesman, and it certainly isn’t Hamilton, but it is a fun night of non-musical comedy that might also spark some pleasant nostalgia. If you are interested, it is worth the investigation.

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One Response to A Review of the Touring Production of Clue at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre

  1. stephen matlock July 15, 2024 at 8:50 am #

    We saw it last night. Our son & daughter-in-law saw it earlier this week.

    We all loved it.

    I don’t always like the non-musical productions such as the mystery play the 5th Avenue did earlier this season (or was it last season) with an Agatha Christie-like protagonist that was just ponderous.

    This was a romp. I started laughing within the first five minutes. The Colonel’s malapropisms and misunderstandings were hilarious.But he was not the only one. Mr. Green is made of _rubber_, it seems. Mrs. White made a good impression of Madeline Kahn. Miss Scarlett was so good, as were all the rest of the colors. And we just laughed so hard [SPOILER] at the many attempts to disguise the various dead bodies by dancing with them or wooing them while the police came by (several times!) to investigate the goings on. (And oh my goodness the Singing Telegram Lady just killed it.)

    This was so much fun.

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