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REVIEW: Murder On The Orient Express

By Gary Wien

originally published: 03/27/2017

REVIEW: Murder On The Orient Express

(PRINCETON, NJ) — There’s just one weekend left to see the World Premiere of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express at McCarter Theatre Center and I can’t rave enough about this wonderful production.  Emily Mann directs the classic story adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy For You) who manages to craft a masterful whodunnit tale  while finding the humor in the work and the story’s zany characters.  But, as always, the train is the star.

The play begins in Istanbul. The famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is there with the intention of taking a well needed vacation after solving a particularly difficult case. His plans are forced to change when he receives a telegram advising him to return to London immediately.  Poirot appears to be out of luck when he learns that the Simplon-Orient Exrpess is entirely full - a situation which is very unusual for the time of year - but his friend Monsieur Bouc lets him take him compartment on the train.

His ride back to England soon becomes an unexpected business trip when a man is murdered in the compartment next to his.  Bouc pleads with Poirot to find the murderer out of fear the news will destroy his company.  

“I have to be back in London in three days,” says Poirot.

“Then solve it in two!” replies Bouc.



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Poirot decides to help out his friend and investigates the crime scene, discovering a note that says “remember Daisy Armstrong” — the name of a young girl who was kidnapped and later murdered a few years earlier.  As Poirot begins interviewing each of the passengers, it’s clear he is beginning to become intrigued by the case.  Guys like Poirot don’t take vacations - at least not in Agatha Christie novels. Unfortunately, every passenger seems to have something they appear to be hiding and motive for the crime is unclear.

“There are too many clues and I am unhappy,” says Poirot.

REVIEW: Murder On The Orient Express

The ride gets thrown for a further loop when a snowstorm stops the train in the middle of no man’s land, a second passenger is shot, and everyone begins fearing for the lives in more ways than one.

Will Poirot solve the case? If you have to ask, you must not have been a fan of Agatha Christie!  As a kid I was a huge fan of the legendary mystery writer.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read any of her books or have seen the film versions, but this production makes me interested in re-reading the classics. Hopefully it will inspire others to do so as well or to read her books for the first time.

REVIEW: Murder On The Orient ExpressThe cast features British stage and screen actor Allan Corduner as Detective Hercule Poirot, Veanne Cox (An American in Paris) as Princess Dragomiroff, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Michel, Julie Halston (You Can’t Take it With You) as Mrs. Hubbard, Susannah Hoffman as Mary Debenham, Alexandra Silber (Fiddler on the Roof) as Countess Andrenyi, Juha Sorola as MacQueen, Samantha Steinmetz (Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility) as Greta Ohlsson, Max von Essen (An American in Paris) as Ratchett/Col. Arburthnot, and Evan Zes (Incident at Vichy) as Bouc.

While the entire cast is terrific, two performances truly stood out for me: Corduner is brilliant as Poirot, recreating the "French sounding" accent he used in the hilarious independent film, The Search for John Gissing.  And Evan Zes steals every scene he is in as Monsieur Bouc!  

REVIEW: Murder On The Orient ExpressEmily Mann’s direction keeps the story moving very quickly - just the right pace for both comedy and the mystery itself.  William Ivey Long provides the cast with colorful costumes that add to the glamour and the absurdity of the ride.  It's a train line often filled with some of the most interesting people in the world and this week is no exception.

But as mentioned in the opening paragraph, the train is the star — or the imaginative set design of the train to be more exact.  Tony-Award winning designer Beowulf Boritt has created a stunning set that features a train with several compartments that roll left and right to show different areas of the train.  The set is absolutely gorgeous and the various train compartments are used to great effect.

 



Murder on the Orient Express is set to close on Sunday, April 2.  See it if you can!



REVIEW: Murder On The Orient Express

All Photos by T. Charles Erickson




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(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.
Pebble Players Presents "Heathers, the Musical: High School Edition"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Celebrating their 10th season, Pebble Players has been entertaining Summit residents and audiences from surrounding towns with sophisticated Off-Broadway quality performances. The 2018 Season opens with "Heathers The Musical: High School Edition," directed by Jayne Myers and choreographed by Jaimie Woodruff.  Performances are Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 18 at 2:00pm. 
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies from Thursday, March 21, 2019 - Saturday, March 23, 2019. The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz). Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, re-creates the original show’s elegant dancing and tapping as choreographer.
Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater present Teahouse by Lao She
(PRINCETON, NJ) --Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Teahouse by Lao She on November 16, 17 and 18 at 8:00pm and November 17 at 2:00pm in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Teahouse is considered a masterpiece of contemporary Chinese theater, spanning 50 years in modern Chinese history from the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Republican Revolution to the birth of the People’s Republic, bringing together over sixty characters who represent all walks of life. The production is directed by senior Changshuo Liu.
Axelrod's Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program Presents "Peter Pan"
(OCEAN TOWNSHIP, NJ) --  A family musical that’s perfect for the holiday season, “Peter Pan” is flying onto the Axelrod stage December 8-16. Axelrod’s award-winning Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts program presents one of Broadway’s timeless classics in a fully staged production directed by Lisa Goldfarb with musical direction by Randy Hurst and choreography by Wendy Roman.  


Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
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The five-time Tony award-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, returns to the stage with a 10th Anniversary Tour at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino! Performed in the venue’s ultra-modern Sound Waves theater, Rock of Ages runs from now until November 4, 2018.
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Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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