Hercule Poirot makes stage debut in McCarter’s ‘Orient Express’ premiere

Agatha Christie's "Murder On The Orient" was adapted by Ken Ludwig for a world premiere starting tonight at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Directed by Emily Mann, it's the first stage appearance of Hercule Poirot. (PHOTO: T Charles Erickson)
Agatha Christie’s “Murder On The Orient” was adapted by Ken Ludwig for a world premiere starting tonight at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Directed by Emily Mann, it’s the first stage appearance of Hercule Poirot. Is it Broadway bound? (PHOTO: T Charles Erickson)

Agatha Christie + Hercule Poirot + Ken Ludwig. That’s a theater trifecta. And that’s also before you know who makes up the creative dream team for the world premiere of the stage version of “Murder on the Orient Express,”  beginning  three weeks of performances tonight at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. (Two more performances already have been added.)

Emily Mann, McCarter’s artistic director, is at the helm. Her team includes Tony Award-winning designers: sets by Beowulf Boritt (Act OneOn the Town); costumes by William Ivey Long (15 Tony noms.; 6 wins); lighting by Ken Billington (Chicago), and sound by Darron L. West (Peter and the Starcatcher).

This is headed to Broadway, right?

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express has migrated from book, to radio, to screen and TV since its publication in 1934. In collaboration with the Agatha Christie estate, playwright Ludwig (a two-time Tony
Award-nominee and multi-award-winning director),  are creating a live version of the iconic mystery.


The cast

British stage and screen actor Allan Corduner as Detective Hercule Poirot, Veanne Cox (An American in Paris) as Princess Dragomiroff, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh (Disgraced at McCarter)
as Michel, Julie Halston (You Can’t Take it With You) as Helen Hubbard, Susannah Hoffman (Baby Doll at McCarter) as Mary Debenham, Alexandra Silber (Fiddler on the Roof) as Countess Andrenyi, Juha Sorola (About Heroes at United Solo Festival – Best Festival Debut 2016) as Hector MacQueen, Samantha
 (Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility) as Greta Ohlsson, Max von Essen (An American in Paris) as Samuel Ratchett/Col. Arburthnot, and Evan Zes (Incident at Vichy) as Monsieur Bouc.

Agatha Christie’s grandson

Mathew Pritchard, says: “Hercule Poirot is 100 years old and has never been more full of life. My grandmother’s best known character continues to invite new interpretations and to
inspire other great talents.

“I’m delighted that Ken Ludwig will be bringing his unique voice to what some would say is Poirot’s greatest story. No medium is more collaborative than the theatre and working with Ken for us is also about working with his great collaborators.

“We are delighted that Emily Mann will continue her collaboration with Ken and that McCarter is to be the scene of their crime. McCarter’s record as an American theatre able to take great works to their full potential is unrivaled. We couldn’t be in better hands”.

About Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is the author not only of The Mousetrap, the longest running stage production in history, but also additional stage hits including Witness for the Prosecution and And Then There Were None.

Her novels have sold more than two billion copies around the world and she is only outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare. Born in 1890, in Torquay, Devon, England, to an American father and English
mother, she wrote her first play Black Coffee (the only play in which she chose to feature Poirot) in 1930 having been disappointed by the way The Murder of Roger Ackroyd had been adapted into Alibi in 1928.

She adapted her bestselling novel And Then There Were None for the stage in 1943, giving it a different ending, followed by, in quick succession, Appointment with Death (1945), Murder on the Nile (1946), and The Hollow (1951).

With The Mousetrap (1952), Witness for the Prosecution (1953), and Spider’s Web (1954), she became the only female playwright to have three plays running in the West End at the same time.

Later plays include Towards Zero (1956) co-adapted with Gerald Verner; Verdict (1958), possibly her most unusual play; Go Back for Murder (1960); and Rule of Three (1962), a series of three one act plays.

Christie died peacefully on 12 January 1976. You can
read Agatha Christie’s own account of her life in An Autobiography which was published after her death in 1977.

About Ken Ludwig

Ken Ludwig  has had 6 shows on Broadway and 7 in London’s West End, with productions in more than 20 languages.  Lend Me A Tenor, which the Washington Post called “one of the classic comedies
of the 20th century,” won two Tony Awards.  He has also won two Laurence Olivier Awards, the Charles MacArthur Award, two Helen Hayes Awards, the Edgar Award for Best Mystery and the Edwin Forrest Award for Contributions to the American Theater.

His plays have been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Old Globe and the Bristol Old Vic.  His 24 plays and musicals include Crazy For You (5 years on Broadway,
Tony Award for Best Musical), Moon Over Buffalo (with Carol Burnett), Twentieth Century (with Alec Baldwin)
and Baskerville.

His newest play, Robin Hood!, premieres in August at The Old Globe.

His book How To Teach Your Children  Shakespeare (Random House) won the Falstaff Award for Best Shakespeare Book of 2014.

He holds degrees from Harvard, Haverford College and Cambridge University.

About Emily Mann

Emily Mann has overseen 150+ productions as McCarter Theatre’s multi-award-winning Artistic Director and Resident Playwright. Mann’s recent McCarter productions include: All the Days, Baby Doll,
Five Mile LakeAntony & CleopatraProofA Delicate Balance. 

She directed these world premieres: Danai Gurira’s The Convert; Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why; Christopher Durang’s Miss Witherspoon; Edward Albee’s Me, Myself & I.

Broadway productions: A Streetcar Named Desire, Anna in the Tropics, Execution of JusticeHaving Our Say. 

Her plays: Hoodwinked; Gloria (Steinem) Live At Lincoln CenterHaving Our Say, adapted from the book bySarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth; Execution of JusticeStill LifeGreensboro (A Requiem)Annulla, An  AutobiographyGreensboro (A Requiem)MeshugahMrs. Packard. Adaptations: Baby DollScenes from a MarriageUncle VanyaThe Cherry Orchard, The House of Bernard Alba, A Seagull in the HamptonsAntigone.

Most recently she’s been awarded a Princeton University Honorary Doctorate of Arts, a Helen Merrill Distinguished
Playwrights’ Award, and the Margo Jones Award given to a “citizen-of-the-theatre who has demonstrated a lifetime
commitment to the encouragement of the living theatre everywhere.”

Sarah Treem, Marina Carr, Lydia Diamond, John  Guare, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Regina Taylor, Beth Henley, Danai Gurira, and Athol Fugard. Many, including EclipsedVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (2013 Tony Award for Best Play), Having Our SayAnna in the TropicsCrownsValley Song, and Yellowman, received original workshops at McCarter before moving on to Broadway and/or become some of the most frequently produced plays in the American theater. McCarter is equally recognized for its reinvestigations of the classic canon including Fiasco Theater’s reimagined production of Into the Woods, Stephen Wadsworth’s acclaimed adaptations of the Marivaux Trilogy and Beaumarchais’ Figaro plays, Brian Friel’s Translations, and Emily Mann’s adaptations of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba.

Schedule, tickets, freebies, meet Emily and Ken, etc.

WHERE: McCarter Theatre, Matthews Stage, 91 University Place in Princeton
$25 and are on sale now online at mccarter.org, by
phone at (609) 258-2787, or in person at the McCarter Theatre Ticket Office, at 91 University Place in Princeton.
RUNNING TIME:  1 hour and 50 minutes, one 15 minute intermission. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
DIALOGUE ON DRAMA:  Sunday, March 19
On the Matthews Stage following the 2pm performance, approximately 4 p.m. Moderated conversation with playwright/adapter Ken Ludwig, creator of  Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery and A Comedy of Tenors. He  will talk about what drew him to adapt the “jewel in the crown” of the Christie Estate, the honor of being the first playwright permitted to bring Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot to the stage,  and his experience collaborating with Emily Mann and the design team. Open to all, no charge.
POST-SHOW TALKS: Follows 2p.m. performance March 26 and 7:30p.m. March 30. Audience-based conversations facilitated by a member of McCarter’s artistic staff, often featuring cast members. Topics including artistic choices, the actors’ process, reflections and questions from the audience.

Tuesday               Mar. 14                                 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday        Mar. 15                                 7:30 p.m.
Thursday             Mar. 16                                 7:30 p.m.
Friday                    Mar. 17                                 8 p.m. (Opening Night)
Saturday              Mar. 18                                 3 p.m.
Saturday              Mar. 18                                 8 p.m.
Sunday                 Mar. 19                                 2 p.m. (Dialogue on Drama)

Wednesday        Mar. 22                                 7:30 p.m.
Thursday             Mar. 23                                 7:30 p.m. (Pride Night)
Friday                    Mar. 24                                 8 p.m.
Saturday              Mar. 25                                 3 p.m. (Open Captioning Performance)
Saturday              Mar. 25                                 8 p.m.
Sunday                 Mar. 26                                 2:00 p.m. (Post-Show Discussion)

Wedensday        March 29                             7:30 p.m.
Thursday             Mar. 30                                 7:30 p.m. (Post-Show Discussion, Audio Description)
Friday                    Mar. 31                                 8 p.m.
Saturday              Apr. 1                                    3 p.m. (ASL Interpreted Performance)
Saturday              Apr. 1                                    8 p.m.
Sunday                 Apr. 2                                    2 p.m. (Closing)