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Saturday, January 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Music Backs Maestro’s Murder

Spokane Symphony SuperPops, “Death on the Downbeat,” Saturday, Nov. 11, Opera House

Part Poirot, part Prokofiev.

That’s the concise way to describe this SuperPops concert, a playful and funny murder mystery with music, staged by the Magic Circle Theatre Company and the Spokane Symphony Saturday night.

We knew as soon as we walked in the concert hall that something was afoot. The stage was cordoned off with crime-scene tape. The shape of a body was outlined on the floor, half-on and half-off of the conductor’s podium. Police officers paced the stage and spoke urgently into walkie-talkies.

Then Detective Deuce (one of the members of the Magic Circle Theatre Company) made a brief announcement. Conductor Gunhard Bigherr had been murdered earlier in the day, during rehearsal. Cyanide poisoning was indicated. The investigation was proceeding, but the authorities were allowing the concert to go on as scheduled.

Randi Von Ellefson stepped up to the podium to take Bigherr’s place. He conducted a frisky version of Bernstein’s “Candide” Overture. Then, the lights suddenly went black. When they came back up, Von Ellefson lay dead on the podium. Another conductor dead!

The orchestra musicians didn’t seem very distraught, however. They seemed positively giddy. They seemed to prefer their conductors dead.

Detective Deuce then searched the audience and found a guy who had a little conducting experience, Fabio Mechetti, the music director of the Symphony. Mechetti conducted the remainder of the program, which included Richard Rodgers’ “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” Shostakovich’s Romance from “The Gadfly,” Max Steiner’s “Casablanca Suite,” Rozsa’s “Lost Weekend” Suite, Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette,” and excerpts from Prokofiev’s “Love for Three Oranges” and “Cinderella.”

Meanwhile the search for suspects continued. The Magic Circle folks sprinkled the show with all kinds of nice touches: the comic arrest of concertmaster Kelly Farris, a vampy appearance by the “lady in red” and a funny wanted poster distributed in the audience for various “celebrity” suspects, including Mayor Jack Geraghty. Those suspects were collared in the lobby at intermission, and brought on the stage for a lineup.

I did not tumble to the identity of the murderer until the last minute. But then it all made sense.

Of course Fabio did it. He wanted Maestro Bigherr out of the way. And he almost got away with it, too. That cyanide-dipped baton was a master stroke.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

Wordcount: 399

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