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Murder Mystery Blues

Adapted by Janey Clarke, based on the short stories of Woody Allen, music by Warren Wills
Original Co-production - I’m a Camera, Warehouse Theatre, Croydon.
59E59, New York
(2006)

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Isn't life odd? Having decided that Croydon was too far away to go and see a tempting play based on some Woody Allen short stories, your intrepid reviewer fell over it in New York, albeit with a new title.

Janey Clarke, who has adapted, written the lyrics for and directs Murder Mystery Blues has now daringly brought her show to Manhattan, where Allen made his name. She has also recast the whole onstage team with a talented group of local musician/actors and deserves to have a success.

Woody Allen has achieved cult status as a film maker but also knows how to write satirically in other media. These stories are almost all gems with solid roots in the Marx Brothers and Damon Runyon.

With a devoted following, a show like this was always likely to succeed and Miss Clarke has added an extra element to amuse her audience and extend the performance to two hours.

This evening feels as if it now has its roots in New York cabaret, as stories and monologues about Kaiser Lupowitz, Allen's equivalent to Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, are broken up with songs composed by Warren Wills in a jazz style that the writer would almost certainly appreciate.

All of the performers act, sing and play musical instruments and it is inevitable that in some cases one element may not be as strong as the others.

Alex Haven and Stephanie Dodd make a good pair as Lupowitz and his ditsy redheaded secretary/admirer Lucy. They navigate their way through a multiplicity of murders, often involving the glamorous Heather Butkiss (Andromeda Turre).

The tone is always comic and works because Allen is such a talented wordsmith, who when he has thought of a concept works wonders with it.

The final big story The Whore of Mensa is a delight, as Lupowitz attempts to clear up a vice ring that shamelessly sells the seediest of wares, intellectual stimulation.

Before that, the variations on a theme include a trio of sub-Sherlock Holmes trifles, a monologue about Lucy's short-sightedness and a story featuring a diminutive Allenesque antihero, Mike Murray's Lenny Mendel, whose devotion to a gorgeous nurse tangentially makes a dying man happy.

This combination of laugh out loud humour and cool tunes is great fun and well worth a look.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher