Arts & Culture

Musical murder mystery comes to Cambria

The cast of "Something's Afoot," which runs Aug. 1 through 24 at the Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre.
The cast of "Something's Afoot," which runs Aug. 1 through 24 at the Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre.

Something mysterious is afoot at the Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre.

That “something” is “Something’s Afoot,” a musical murder-mystery comedy directed by Cambria resident Jill Turnbow. The show, which opens Friday, runs through Aug. 24.

“It’s just a fun … campy, entertaining light-hearted show that I think everybody will enjoy,” Turnbow said, describing the musical as “Agatha Christie meets the ‘Clue’ (board) game.” “You just can’t help but have a good time.”

Written by James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach, with additional music by Ed Linderman, “Something’s Afoot” premiered in Atlanta in 1972.

The musical spoofs Christie’s classic detective story “And Then There Were None,” also known as “Ten Little Indians,” and other mysteries with its eccentric characters and improbable plot twists.

“Something’s Afoot” opens in the spring of 1935.

Lord Dudley Rancour has invited a diverse group of visitors to his remote island estate in the Lake District of England, which is staffed by butler Clive (Randall Lyon), maid Lettie (Heather Granada) and handyman Flint (Michael Shanley).

In addition to Lord Dudley’s rakish nephew and heir Nigel Rancour (Garrett Larsen), the self-described “black sheep” of the family, the guests include flighty ingénue Hope Langdon (Sarah Smith), family physician Dr. Grayburn (Angelo Procopio), domineering grande dame Lady Manley-Prowe (Anita Schwaber) and elderly military man Colonel Gillweather (Oz Barron). 

Rounding out the group is artist/amateur sleuth Miss Tweed (former Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters), who bears a certain resemblance to Christie’s crime-solving spinster, Jane Marple.

“They all believe they’ve been invited alone,” Turnbow said, but they’re mistaken.

As the guests arrive, Clive announces that their host has been murdered. In addition, they learn, an electrical storm will soon cut off the estate from the outside world.

Pretty soon, the characters are dropping like flies, perishing in mysterious yet hilarious ways.

As the clues and the corpses stack up, Miss Tweed and her cohorts — including college student Geoffrey (Joseph Whittington), who shows up on the island uninvited during the storm — try to decipher the identity of the murderer.

Whenever the characters aren’t busy dodging death, they’re bursting into song. 

In fact, Turnbow said, the soundtrack is one of the reasons she has wanted to direct “Something’s Afoot” since she first saw it performed in the 1970s. 

“Those songs have never left my head. They’re so catchy and so fun,” said Turnbow, who previously helmed “Almost, Maine” at the Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre.

Her favorite musical moments in “Something’s Afoot” include the grand opening number “A Marvelous Weekend” and “Suspicious,” in which Miss Tweed and the other characters detail their doubts about the shady goings-on. 

The 10-member cast, working with choreographer Susan Detweiler and music director Randy Schwalbe, is accompanied live by two keyboardists, Jeff Mar and Ron Perry.

“They sound like a full 12-piece orchestra,” Turnbow said of the musicians. “They’re just amazing.”

According to the director, the large, elaborate set designed by scenic artist Anne Lawrence and constructed by Todd Steeb almost serves as another character in “Something’s Afoot.”

“Technically this is a very challenging show,” she said.

Joe Zaragoza serves as lighting designer and Runo Lemming as light operator for the production, while Joseph Crowley handles sound design and operation. Nancy Green is producing the show.

Although “Something’s Afoot” deals with murder, Turnbow said the surprises are more comical than chilling. “They’re definitely played for laughs,” she said.

If You Go

“Something’s Afoot”

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday; through Aug. 24

Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre, 1350 Main Street, Cambria

$20, $5 students; $15 Friday preview

927-8190 or