Whodunnit? PTHS presents a murder musical


What’s better for a stormy fall evening than a good old-fashioned murder mystery?

Port Townsend High School drama students present just such a play with John Bishop’s “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” opening 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4.

Referred to as “the intelligent person's kind of nonsense" by NY Magazine, the play centers on a fake backer’s audition for a new musical comedy in Chappaqua, New York, in a mansion owned by Elsa Von Grossenknueten.

The creative team responsible for a recent Broadway flop, during which three chorus girls were murdered by the mysterious "Stage Door Slasher,” assemble in the house. A blizzard cuts off any possible retreat and bodies start to drop in plain sight, knives spring out of nowhere, masked figures drag their victims into secret passages, and accusing fingers point in all directions.


The characters all seem to have at least one secret, which is revealed in the course of the show.

“With this small cast, the students get a chance to fully develop their characters and explore scene work in a meaningful way,” said Jennifer Nielsen, director.

Elsa Von Grossenkneuten, an eccentric Broadway donor, is played by Miranda McClave. Her German maid, Helsa, is played by Mimi Grant.

Newcomer Gannon Short plays the undercover police officer, Sergeant Michael Kelly. Seniors Rowan Gallagher, Austin Kreig and Rosanna Widmer portray the original creative team Ken De La Maize, Roger Hopewell and Bernice Roth. Mysterious Irish tenor, Patrick O’Reilly, will be played by Ian Coates.

Newcomers brought in for the “audition” – comic Eddie McCuen and Nikki Crandell – are played respectively by Caleb Lumbard and Cece Nielsen.

The original show’s producer, Marjorie Baverstock, is played by Jennifer DeLong.


The elaborate set, which depicts the library of a Victorian mansion in Chappaqua, is complete with 12-foot high walls, chair and picture rails and crown moldings.

Set construction has been supervised again by Jim Guthrie with help from Mark Grant and many hours contributed by the cast and crew.

Backstage crew includes Natalie Gannon, Phoebe Arthur, Eli Harding, Rosalyn Salmon, Monica Charez and Jacob Pedersen. Hair and makeup is designed by Angela Agnew and the lighting design by Steve Arbuckle.

Karen Forbes is supervising the costumes for this production, which aim to accurately portray the fashions of the late 1930s and early 1940s by creating a silhouette with wide padded shoulders, nipped-in waists, and a-line skirts.

These, along with the classic hair and make-up of the era, provide a fun challenge for the students, Nielsen said.


A rip-roaring farce, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” is sure to surprise and delight.

Shows are 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at the Port Townsend High School auditorium, 1500 Van Ness St.

Admission prices range from $3 for children under 12 to $10 for adults. Tickets are available at the door only; all proceeds fund future productions at PTHS.

For more information, contact Jennifer Nielsen at

jnielsen@ptsd50.org or call the high school office at 379-4520.


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