Saturday, September 22, 2018
Stage

Everyone is suspect in Stage West's production of 'The Butler Did It'

SPRING HILL — If you're thinking of writing a play, you may want to avoid the title The Butler Did It. There are at least a half-dozen existing plays by that name in circulation, starting in the early 1900s, and yours would be just one more.

The phrase has been around so long, in fact, that it's become a cliche and is always good for a laugh. (One imaginative playwright named his play A Butler Did It, thus vaulting his play to the top of the alphabetical list of Butler-Did-It shows.)

To be clear, The Butler Did It that opens Thursday at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse is the 1981 version by the Marks brothers, Walter and Peter, and it has mostly been well received across the country at professional and amateur theaters alike, if reviews and patron comments are to be trusted.

Set in 1983 New York City, it's a play within a play, as ambitious playwright/director Anthony Lefcourt (Dalton Benson, HAMI Award as Saunders in Lend Me a Tenor) gathers his cast to rehearse his latest creation. His play is a classic whodunit. But to keep his actors in character, Lefcourt refuses to tell them who will be the murder victim and who will be the murderer. That way, the actors will be honestly horrified when they discover the identities of both. Or, at least in Lefcourt's vivid imagination, they will be. And, who knows? Something terrifying may actually happen, giving Lefcourt's struggling play the publicity he desperately needs.

The confusion increases because three of the central characters in the play-within-the-play are all named Butler, assuring a good chance that a Butler did, indeed, do it.

There are Raymond Butler (Ernie Rowland, HAMI Award as Norman in On Golden Pond), a fading actor named Robert who once played a doctor on TV; Angela Butler (Cheryl Roberts, HAMI as Simone in A Bedfull of Foreigners), an aging actor named Natalie who is fighting her wrinkles and gray hair; their "play" daughter Victoria Butler (Stephanie Cooper, HAMI Award as Evelyn in Ragtime), an eager (and sometimes annoying) aspiring actor whose real name is Claudia; Aldo (John Pridgen, stage debut), the Butlers' butler, whose real name is Michael; and Detective Mumford (Sam Petricone, HAMI Award as Charlie in On Golden Pond), real name Sam, who, though he isn't named Butler or isn't even playing a butler, may be the perpetrator.

Hey, in a whodunit, everyone is suspect. (Even the murder weapon has a Butler connection — a hardcover copy of Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh.)

Theater insiders and aficionados may get a special kick out of all the backstage lingo, lessons and shenanigans sprinkled throughout the play. It's all designed to keep the audience guessing, right to the end.

Comments
Despite the razzle-dazzle, ‘Chicago’ is starting to feel dated

Despite the razzle-dazzle, ‘Chicago’ is starting to feel dated

TAMPA — There’s a reason Chicago has been delighting audiences since 1975, and is one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. Jaded and funny, fast-paced and flamboyant, this sentimental journey to the tabloid culture still seems ahead o...
Published: 09/19/18
Find A Friend: Brooklyn the Terrier Mix

Find A Friend: Brooklyn the Terrier Mix

She’s going to make it by any means — got a pocket full of dreams — let’s hear it for Brooklyn. This 36-pound, soulful snuggler is a well-mannered maiden, past the puppy stage at age 5, and happily housebroken. She enjoys ...
Published: 09/19/18
On stage this weekend: Game of Thrones, Rocky Bleier, Florida Orchestra pops up

On stage this weekend: Game of Thrones, Rocky Bleier, Florida Orchestra pops up

PAGEANTRY AND PASSION: GAME OF THRONESThis ought to be fun for hard-core fans of Game of Thrones, which won its third best drama Emmy this week. HBO and Live Nation concert producers combined to create Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a big b...
Published: 09/19/18
On stage this week: ‘Chicago,’ ‘The Guys,’ Ginger Minj of RuPaul fame

On stage this week: ‘Chicago,’ ‘The Guys,’ Ginger Minj of RuPaul fame

RAZZLE DAZZLE: CHICAGO Broadway returns to Tampa in Chicago, the jazzy Bob Fosse cynical celebration of corruption and longest-running American musical revival of all time. Style is substance as Velma and Roxie compete for the limelight of a jaded p...
Published: 09/12/18
Review: ‘Heisenberg’ at Tampa Rep a hopeful expression for our times

Review: ‘Heisenberg’ at Tampa Rep a hopeful expression for our times

TAMPA — With the current state of things, the unlikely union in Heisenberg provides a refreshingly tender contrast to the divisiveness trolling our lives these days.Playwright Simon Stephens even went so far to say in Oakland’s East Bay Times that "t...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/12/18
Fall Arts Preview: Your guide to museums, plays, opera and classical music in Tampa Bay

Fall Arts Preview: Your guide to museums, plays, opera and classical music in Tampa Bay

Welcome the sweet approach of fall. Despite our current heat index, we’ll soon experience milder air, shorter days and too many things flavored like pumpkin.But in Tampa Bay, the true indicator of fall is the rebirth of local art. Our professional th...
Updated one month ago
Fall Arts Preview: Opera Tampa will premiere new opera by Anton Coppola, 101, and more

Fall Arts Preview: Opera Tampa will premiere new opera by Anton Coppola, 101, and more

Have you decided yet which operas you’re going to compose after age 100? If the prospect seems daunting (it does), consider that there is only one Anton Coppola, and only he expects this kind of productivity. Opera Tampa’s founding maest...
Updated one month ago
Fall Arts Preview: In a new season, Florida Orchestra expands reach, new top soloists

Fall Arts Preview: In a new season, Florida Orchestra expands reach, new top soloists

The Florida Orchestra has prepared a 51st season with a wide range of grand masters and newer work, an increased visibility for minorities and women and more collaborations with museums and other artistic institutions. Masterworks highlights include...
Updated one month ago
Fall Arts Preview: Light and dark, classic and groundbreaking round out Tampa Bay theater

Fall Arts Preview: Light and dark, classic and groundbreaking round out Tampa Bay theater

Theater mirrors our world and enlarges it, responds to current events, and allows us to glimpse the present by retelling the classics. Just touch this lineup of shows. In the palm of your hand you can almost feel tremors of anxiety about racial tensi...
Updated one month ago
On stage this week: Tampa Bay Theatre Festival and more 'Hedwig'

On stage this week: Tampa Bay Theatre Festival and more 'Hedwig'

BETTER THAN EVER: TAMPA BAY THEATRE FESTIVAL If you haven’t been to a Tampa Bay Theatre Festival yet, you really don’t know what you’re missing. The festival, now in its fifth year, offers a ton of original entertainment, learning ...
Updated one month ago