People making their first vacation trip to London usually have a list of things to do: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral.
And The Mousetrap.
Since Oct. 6, 1952, Agatha Christie's murder mystery has been a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Failing to see it is rather like going to New Orleans for the first time and avoiding Bourbon Street, or visiting San Francisco and refusing to ride the trolley.
Little wonder, then, that The Mousetrap is the longest continuously running show of any kind in history, with more than 24,000 performances … so far.
For a couple of years, the only place it could be seen was in London, and even now, only one version is allowed outside the confines of that city. No film version will be allowed until the West End production has been closed for at least six months, so don't bother to look for it at the movies or through NetFlix.
Fortunately, area audiences can see this little treasure (without the expensive trip) at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center today through Sunday and Sept. 16, 17 and 18. Performances are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m.
The Mousetrap takes place in the winter of 1952 at Monkswell Manor, a lovely old home 30 miles outside London that has recently been converted to a guest house by a young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston (D. Katherine Grace and Mike Skrzypkowiak). Their first four guests arrive, just as a fierce snowstorm hits.
The first, Christopher Wren (Drew Lundquist, Billy in No, No, Nanette at Richey Suncoast Theatre), seems nervous and agitated for no apparent reason. Miss Casewell (Heidi Hook, Lynn in Secrets of a Soccer Mom at Tarpon Springs Cultural Center) seems obsessed with strange secrets from her even stranger childhood.
Mrs. Boyle (Midge Mamatas, several roles at Shimberg Playhouse in Tampa) criticizes everything in sight, but refuses to go back home. And Maj. Metcalf (John Nelligan, Doc Meyers in Leading Ladies at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Arts), a retired military man, seems unusually unforthcoming about himself.
Shortly after the marooned guests read in the newspaper that a woman has been murdered in London, a strangely-dressed man named Mr. Paravicini (Bob Marcela, John Smith in Caught in the Net at Richey Suncoast) blusters in, claiming that his car has plunged into a snowdrift.
The next day, a telephone call from the police warning of a murderer on the loose alarms the guests at Monkswell Manor, and everyone begins to see everyone else as a suspect. The fear escalates when one of the guests is murdered.
Moments later, Detective Sgt. Trotter (Rick Bronson, The Complete History of America — Abridged, Dempsey Theatre in Hudson) arrives on snow skis, and guests and hosts feel more secure, knowing that an official authority is in charge. Trotter gathers the guests in the main hall with plans to set a trap for the culprit.
Audiences are requested at the end of every performance not to tell the ending, and the secret has remained surprisingly secret, despite a spoiler on a well-known website (boooooo!).
The Mousetrap has been both praised and slammed by various critics, but in the end, audiences have given their final verdict: almost six decades of nonstop success.