For the past 70-plus years, family and friends have gathered at the table to solve the mysterious murder of Mr. Boddy in the popular Hasbro game Clue. Was it Professor Plum in the study with a candlestick? Or Miss Scarlet in the lounge with a wrench?
The game became so popular that it was made into a film in 1985. Starring Tim Curry, the flick is hilariously over-the-top as the group of blackmailed strangers attempts to uncover the murderer in their midst. About a decade later, the concept was transformed into a stage show, opening Off-Broadway at the Players Theater in 1997.
Ever since, Clue has been performed at a slew of venues, including its current home at Bristol Riverside Theatre. Ahead of last Thursday’s opening night, The Times caught up with cast members Carl Wallnau, who is playing Col. Mustard, and Renee McFillan, who’s taking on Yvette the French maid.
For McFillan, of Drexel Hill, it’s a thrill to be making her debut at Bristol Riverside Theatre, a place she has frequented as an audience member.
“I’m so excited. I’ve seen a few shows here in the past couple years, especially before COVID. It’s awesome because I’ve always loved this area. I love the location on the river and everything,” she said.
As for Wallnau, of Yardley, he’s a BRT veteran, having appeared in The Sunshine Boys, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Triumph of Love and Witness for the Prosecution. However, none of his previous roles have been quite like Col. Mustard, who is described as a “puffy, pompous, dense blowhard of a military man.”
Both actors agreed that Sandy Rustin’s Clue is the perfect experience for audiences who need a break from the craziness of the real world…even for just 90 minutes. When The Times spoke with BRT’s co-producing directors Ken and Amy Kaissar ahead of the mainstage season, they shared their key mission this year — to help theater-goers simply have fun.
“This falls into that category. There’s nothing deep about the show where you have to be thinking about this. If you’re thinking about the meaning and metaphor then you need help,” Wallnau said with a laugh.
For the cast, Clue is extremely fast-paced as the suspects navigate the iconic rooms of Boddy Manor while grappling with a handful of possible murder weapons. This means that, for the most part, they’re all onstage for the show’s full 90-minute runtime.
“It’s really choreographed,” said McFillan. “It needs to look good with eight people on the stage, so that was definitely a challenge.”
“You’re never offstage. It’s not like we can sit there, ‘Well, tomorrow we’re going to work on Renee’s scene.’ We’re all in Renee’s scene,” said Wallnau.
They praised their co-star, Barrymore Award-winner Ian Merrill Peakes, who plays Wadsworth the Butler, for being a force to be reckoned with in Clue.
“He literally sweats through his entire costume,” said Wallnau.
“Oh my God, he’s got the whole thing riding on his back. He’s so physical and you’re gonna enjoy him so much,” said McFillan. “I don’t know how he has that energy. And right before he went onstage [for the preview performance] he was cool and calm. If that was me, I would be losing it. I’d be freaking out that he has so much to do. He is the leading force that is that show.”
Like most of society, the cast of Clue grew up playing the board game. When it came time for a young McFillan to choose a character, she always went for Miss Scarlet: “She was the pretty one, you know, she always had the long dress. I always wanted to be Miss Scarlet.”
Wallnau jokingly chimed in, “I did too, as a matter of fact. It was a very peculiar thing.”
According to McFillan, Yvette is a lesser known Clue character who is only featured in some versions of the game. Still, she’s excited to bring more depth to Yvette, who is described as a “sexy French maid with her own secret aspirations.”
“Going into this, I didn’t want to just be a body onstage or a physical presence, which I know half of her battle is that,” she said. “But I also wanted to bring that stylized sense of over-the-top humor. If you play it serious, it’s not going to work. It’s not funny.”
As for Wallnau, he almost accidentally brought a fresh take to Col. Mustard that could’ve been disastrous — a British accent. Wallnau mistakenly associated Clue with Bristol novelist Agatha Christie, but recognized his mistake prior to his audition.
According to Wallnau, Clue is one of the most performed shows at the moment. There’s suspense, hilarity and a (literal) colorful cast of characters that will have audiences constantly guessing about their innocence…or lack thereof.
“If you’re a fan of the movie, a fan of the board game, you should see it. If you’ve never heard of the board game, never heard of the movie, it doesn’t matter anyway because it doesn’t presuppose any knowledge they have to have,” said Wallnau. “It’s a mindless evening at the theater. You get to turn your brain off and just sort of laugh and relax. It’s one of those things where you come out and go, ‘You know, I think I needed that.’”
If you go: “Clue” is onstage at Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., through Nov. 20. Visit brtstage.org or call the box office at 215-785-0100 for tickets and more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org