Murder comes to Taylor Little Theatre


Rebecca Dunphy, Staff writer

Less than a week remains until students will take the stage for the Mercyhurst Theater Program’s 2018-2019 season finale: “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.”
Running March 28-31 and April 5-7, the musical is described by director Brett Johnson, Ph.D., as “deliciously campy, witty, biting and refreshingly irreverent.”
“My primary consideration when choosing material is finding scripts that will challenge our students and facilitate their growth as artists/scholars,” Johnson said.
“A show like Musical Comedy Murders challenges them to explore the conventions of farce while still drawing upon the skills they’ve learned in classes and previous productions.”
Junior English major Jenna Rosciszewski and Biology major Jacob Tretinik both describe the show as challenging in its demands of high energy and intense focus.
“It has tested my capabilities as an actor due to its fast pace and heightened energy requirements,” Tretinik said.
“It’s farce in every aspect of the word, meaning it requires us to be on top of our game at each and every moment.”
Set in the World War II era, the show follows a creative team of Broadway actors in light of the recent murders of three chorus girls by the “Stage Door Slasher.”
The team convenes for a backer’s audition at Westchester estate, where things are not always as they seem.
A blizzard cuts off the electricity, secret passageways are revealed and the Slasher makes his return.
“This set is one of the largest and most ornate ones that we’ve constructed during my six-year tenure at Mercyhurst,” said Johnson.
“The action takes place in the library of a Westchester estate. The room is replete with 12-foot walls, French doors, chandeliers, sconces, revolving bookcases and other surprises. Come for the set, stay for the comedy.”
Assistant stage manager Allison Christopher seconds this.
“It’s everything you love about a murder mystery and farce comedy coming together,” Christopher said.
The cast includes students from all years and majors including Jillian Johannes (Helsa Wenzel), Grace Sloop (Elsa Von Grossenknueten), John Hetrick (Michael Kelly), Jon Reddinger (Patrick O’Reilly), Tretinik (Ken De La Maize), Rosciszewski (Nikki Crandall), Chance Wandler (Eddie McCuen), Tessa Sayre (Marjorie Baverstock), Aidan Giles (Roger Hopewell) and Ella Santillano (Bernice Roth).
Assisting Johnson is a production team of both students and faculty: assistant director Abby Whitman, scenic designer Tucker Topel, lighting designer Madeleine Steineck, technical director Andrew Ferguson, sound engineer Ben Friesen, production stage manager Rebecca Holt and assistant stage managers Christopher and Darby Shafron.
As opposed to most theater performances at Mercyhurst, this show will be running for two consecutive weekends.
This provides great opportunities for both actors and audience members alike.
“It will be nice to get to work with this show a little longer,” said junior Forensic Anthropology Santillano.
“It’s been a good learning experience and a fun experience as a whole.”
“I’m glad it won’t be over quite so soon,” Santillano said.
Rosciszewski hopes that this will give more people the opportunity to come see the show.
“I think having two weekends is an awesome idea,” Rosciszewski said.
“It will allow people who are busy opening weekend to come see it the following weekend. I also think it will allow word to spread about the show and hopefully create more interest on campus and in the community, convincing even more people to come out to see it.”
Performances will be held March 28-30 and April 5-6 at 7:30 p.m., with two matinee performances on March 31 and April 7 at 2 p.m.
All shows will be held in the Taylor Little Theatre with doors opening 30 minutes prior to curtain.
Those interested in attending can purchase tickets at a price of $15 for adults, $10 for seniors/students and $5 for youth and Mercyhurst students.
All performances are general admission, and Christopher highly recommends that audience members purchase tickets beforehand.
“We tend to sell out a lot of our shows,” Christopher said.
Tickets can be purchased at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center box office, online at or by phone at 814-824-3000.
The Taylor Little Theatre box office will also be selling tickets one hour prior to each show.
Cast members encourage all students to attend for a night of pure comedy and entertainment.
“It’s a great way to unwind during this stressful part of the school year and enjoy an evening of laughter,” Rosciszewski said.
Tretinik shares similar sentiments.
“Students should come see this show because if you don’t you’re missing out on one heck of an experience and a show unlike any other you’ve ever seen,” Tretinik.
He added, “Come on out and enjoy a night of beautiful, obnoxious, downright hilarious chaos unfolding before your eyes.”