The Sauk Theatre recently featured its first full-length musical in over two years — with 216 possible endings and a dead man as the star.
“I live to die,” the narrator and future murder victim Mr. Boddy, played by Josh Lightner, told the audience, smiling wickedly. The board game Clue came to life onstage in “Clue: The Musical.”
The show had the largest crowd since December 2019, joining in the game and making it The Sauk’s most attended show since the COVID-19 pandemic. It ran Oct. 14 – 17 and 21 – 24.
Meghan Barnes, Hillsdale College communications coordinator, and Gianna Green, former social media manager, played Mrs. Peacock and Miss Scarlet, respectively.
“I’m just thankful for the Sauk Theatre, being able to bring theatre to a community that otherwise just wouldn’t be here,” Barnes said. “So many people get to come, and maybe they’ve never been to musical theatre before. It’s really part of the community and is bringing the arts in a good, positive way.”
The audience chose the murderer, weapon, and room at the beginning of each show and followed along in their booklets, crossing out or circling names based on the clues Mr. Boddy shared at the end of each scene.
“Directing Clue was challenging but fantastic,” director Trinity Bird said. “The cast was a dream. The challenge came from making sure we rehearsed the variations in the script and were ready for all 216 outcomes.”
At the start of the show, and after Mrs. Peacock listed her collection of deceased husbands, Mrs. White, played by Aaron Guest, waddled onstage in a blood-soaked apron. Each character was introduced, and three chosen volunteers stepped up to pick from a selection of oversized Clue game cards as Mr. Boddy looked on.
“Are you ready to choose the grisly gadget of my demise?” Mr. Boddy asked the man in the flannel who stepped up to pick the weapon.
“Amen,” the man replied. The audience’s laughter echoed behind him.
The three cards would hang in a huge envelope marked “CONFIDENTIAL” on the side of the stage until the end of the show.
Meanwhile, Mr. Boddy strolled into various rooms, talking aggressively with various characters, establishing motives, and providing insight on each of them.
Colonel Mustard, played by Geremy Burns, and Mrs. Peacock reinstated a torrid affair in the ballroom, and Mrs. White tenderized a roast with a lead pipe.
“You won the Miss Nuclear Waste pageant,” Mr. Green, played by Steven Owsley, recalled as he schemed with Miss Scarlett in the ballroom.
Between each scene, Mr. Boddy came to the front of the stage and announced another clue to the sound of suspenseful music. Since the killer changed every show, he’d recite different lines each night depending on who would later be incriminated.
“The unique challenge was the interactive nature of the script. Our Mr. Boddy, Josh Lightner, was outstanding at navigating this each night,” Bird said. “Also, the music was incredibly challenging and our musical director Kriti Gautsche worked her magic as always.”
After a whirl of sneaking and singing, and exchanging of classic Clue game weapons, the characters awoke to Mr. Boddy’s missing body and a detective, played by Mandee Howard, at the scene ready to interview each suspect.
If the actors chose not to find out who the killer was at the beginning of the show, there was one line that would give it away for them, Barnes said. Whoever the detective questioned about the sheet music found in his or her room was the murderer.
Because, at the end of this show, Professor Plum, played by Dave Trippett, was the murderer who’d been chosen but wasn’t the mastermind after all — he was simply an accomplice to the piano player. The piano player was secretly the real Professor Plum, played by adjunct instructor of music at Hillsdale College, Tom Ryskamp ’19, stuck behind a dark curtain working with a broken key and nursing a need for vengeance against Mr. Boddy for relegating him to the back of the stage.
Of all the shows they performed, no one ever chose Barnes’ character as the killer. Before their last matinee’s curtain could fall, The Sauk director Trinity Bird asked her to perform the speech of the accused killer that she never got to give during the play.
“Everybody at The Sauk is so great. Everybody loves everybody,” Barnes said. “Everybody was just really putting forth their best effort and working really hard and being really positive and encouraging. There’s no drama.”
Bird said that he considers the Sauk to be home.
“I work at a place that is full of love, encouragement, art, music, laughter, and creativity. Everyone who comes into this building is here because they want to be,” Bird said. “It is honestly the best job in the whole world.”
The Sauk’s next performance will be the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company Production in “Shakespeare 101,” a collection of scenes from the writer’s plays, on Nov. 6 at 8 p.m.