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Choose your weapon: Civic Theatre stages ‘Clue: The Musical’

From left, Mrs. White, played by Troy Heppner, Mrs. Peacock (Danielle Griffith), Miss Scarlet (Jacklyn Herzog), Mr. Green (Cecil Trail), Professor Plum (David McCarthy) and Colonel Mustard (Daniel Griffith) star in Civic Theatre’s production of “Clue: The Musical.” (Tyler Tjomsland)
From left, Mrs. White, played by Troy Heppner, Mrs. Peacock (Danielle Griffith), Miss Scarlet (Jacklyn Herzog), Mr. Green (Cecil Trail), Professor Plum (David McCarthy) and Colonel Mustard (Daniel Griffith) star in Civic Theatre’s production of “Clue: The Musical.” (Tyler Tjomsland)

No matter how many times you sit through “Clue: The Musical,” the odds of seeing the exact same show twice are pretty slim. There are 216 possible endings to the story, in which it is revealed that one of six characters committed a murder in a certain location with a certain weapon.

The show, which premieres tonight at Spokane Civic Theatre, follows the basic format of the classic board game “Clue” – there’s one dead body and six suspects, and it’s up to you to finger the culprit. Was it Miss Scarlet in the ballroom with the candlestick? Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the revolver? Mrs. White in the kitchen with the rope? You know the drill.

“All of the motives are real thought out,” said the show’s director Keith Dixon. “Are they plausible? No, never – it’s a board game, let’s face it. But they’re really clever, and they tie together nicely.”

“Clue: The Musical” premiered off-Broadway in 1997 (it’s not, by the way, related to the 1985 feature film adaptation of the board game), and it features a plot that resembles an Agatha Christie whodunit by way of Mel Brooks, or an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” being hijacked by the Marx brothers.

We meet six strangers – Mustard, Scarlet, White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Professor Plum – who are all attending the same dinner party in a foreboding mansion. The party’s host, the unfortunately named Mr. Boddy, turns up murdered, and a detective later arrives on the scene and deduces that everyone is a suspect. Everyone has a motive, too, and a propensity toward violence, and these six eccentrics run around the mansion as the inspector pieces the mystery together.

“It truly is an ensemble piece,” Dixon said. “I have a group of really fun people, from top to bottom. … They bring their own personal goofiness and quirkiness to the parts. We’ve had an awful lot of fun putting this show together.”

But this isn’t merely a straight dramatization of the game’s basic murder mystery concept; it’s more like the board game come to life. The show’s action takes place in six different rooms, and the Civic’s studio theater has been designed in such a way that watching the show is like inhabiting the world on the game board.

There’s also an interactive element to the production, and audience members are encouraged to play along with the inspector character; you’ll even get a game sheet to keep track of all the clues. It’s like you’re playing the board game in the family den, but with live actors in front of you.

The actual identity of the killer is, of course, arbitrary – after all, it’s different every time. But “Clue” is really all about trying to figure out that identity before anyone else does, and if you do guess the killer correctly, Dixon says there will be a moment at the end where you can stand up and receive your applause.

“It’s definitely on the quirky side,” he said. “It’s goofy and campy, all of those things that make for a fun evening.”

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