The world premiere stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” closes Sunday at McCarter Theatre in Princeton but its next stop will be at the Hartford Stage, Conn., as part to its 2018 Spring s
“McCarter Theatre Center couldn’t be more excited to have ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ at Hartford Stage as the play’s next step in its journey,” said McCarter Theatre Center Managing Director Timothy J. Shields. “Hartford Stage is an ideal partner to continue the process of bringing the enduring legacy of Agatha Christie’s fabulous characters to life for today’s audiences.”
McCarter Artistic Director Emily Mann directed the play based on Christie’s book that was adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig. His adaptation of “Hound of the Baskervilles” here (2015) was fantastic. So clever, so funny, and delivered by just three very talented actors. (The world premiere of his “A Comedy of Tenors” played here in October 2015.)
“Agatha Christie’s mysteries were favorites of mine growing up, and I’m delighted to bring Ken Ludwig and Emily Mann’s
beautiful production of her classic Murder on the Orient Express here to Hartford Stage,” said Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak.
The show’s creative team consists of Tony Award-winning designers: sets by Beowulf Boritt (“Act One,” “On the Town,” “Sunday in the Park with George”); costumes by William Ivey Long (15 Tony nominations, 6 wins); lighting by Ken Billington (“Chicago”), and sound by Darron L. West (“Peter and the Starcatcher”).
James Prichard, chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd. and Christie’s great-grandson, added: “Working with Ken Ludwig, Emily Mann, and the wonderfully creative company at the McCarter on the world première of this staging has been a hugely satisfying experience for the team at Agatha Christie Ltd., and we are delighted that Darko Tresnjak and Hartford Stage will be joining us as we move forward to take one of my great-grandmother’s most loved stories to theatre audiences across America.”
Ludwig’s adaptation is a bit stripped down with five less characters than appear in the book. The cast features 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 the conductor Michel, Julie Halston (“You Can’t Take it With You”) as loquacious Helen Hubbard, Susannah Hoffman (“Baby Doll” at McCarter) as Mary Debenham, Alexandra Silber (“Fiddler on the Roof”) as Countess Andrenyi (minus her husband), Juha Sorola (“About Heroes” at United Solo Festival – Best Festival Debut 2016) as Hector MacQueen, Samantha Steinmetz (Bedlam’s “Sense & Sensibility”) as Swedish nurse Greta Ohlsson, Max von Essen (“An American in Paris”) as shady businessman Samuel Ratchett and the very English Col. Arburthnot, and Evan Zes (“Incident at Vichy”) as Monsieur Bouc, a former colleague of Poirot’s who provides comic relief in the novel.
Everyone in the cast are fine with Halston a standout. She’s loud and brash and ver amusing. That’s the only problem in had with this otherwise excellent production wholly supported by the audience the evening I attended that also included a partial standing ovation.
Ludwig’s first Broadway play was “Lend Me a Tenor” (1918) and one of the theater’s greatest farce. He is known for his comic writing and there is plenty here to keep the audience laughing all the way through.
But I couldn’t forget this is a murder mystery. A passenger on the train is revealed to be a fugitive whose real name is Cassetti. He kidnapped the 3-year-old Daisy Armstrong, collected the ransom from her wealthy family, and killed her anyway.
Cassetti tries to hire Poirot to investigate threatening letters he’d received, but the Belgian detective turns him down. Once he is found dead, M. Bouc asks his old friend to find the murderer, whom Poirot in convinced remains on the Orient Express which now is stuck in a snowdrift in the mountain unable to move.
McCarter Theatre Center’s production of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” runs through April 2, 2017. Visit www.mccarter.org for tickets and information.
For more information on the production at Hartford, visit www.hartfordstage.org.