In the 1930s and '40s, Agatha Christie wrote four short radio plays — Butter in a Lordly Dish, Three Blind Mice, Personal Call and Yellow Iris (which features the famous Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot) — that were aired only once by the BBC. Now these plays have been rediscovered and turned into a stage show by Ruth Eckerd Hall to launch its new mission, under CEO Zev Buffman, to become a producer of works that tour to other theaters and performing arts centers.
Agatha Christie's The BBC Murders is the brainchild of Buffman with David Ossman and Judith Walcutt, the husband-wife team who adapted the radio plays for the stage. Ossman is one of the four founding members of Firesign Theatre, whose subversive comedy — in classic albums such as Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers — was a hallmark of the 1960s and '70s counterculture. Phil Proctor, another Firesign founder, plays Poirot and other roles.
The 16-actor cast also includes Melinda Peterson, who plays Christie as the narrator; Gary Sandy, best known as Andy Travis in the hit sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati; and Amy Walker, an Internet sensation for her YouTube video in which she demonstrates 21 accents in one fast-paced take. The sound design includes such effects as an archaeological dig in Iraq and a train station in London. Broadway composer Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) wrote music for a cabaret scene.
The show opens Tuesday (sold out) and runs through Nov. 18 at the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Shows are 8 p.m. Tuesday, 2 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. There is a preview at 8 p.m. Monday (though tickets are full price). $40, $55. (727) 791-7400. At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, a free 1940s British street fair will take place before the show with classic cars, bagpipers and a swing band.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic