Making its UK debut this week on stream.theatre, produced by Aria Entertainment and Blue Mahoe, A Killer Party is an online murder mystery musical in the Cluedo tradition; one house, many suspects.
Written by Rachel Axler and Kait Kerrigan (book), Jason Howland (music), and Nathan Tysen (lyrics), A Killer Party appeared on US streams last year (see below for my thoughts on that production) but has now been subtly adapted for British/UK audiences (meter maid becomes traffic cop, locations get swapped, Jeremy Jordan becomes Ben Forster as the token ‘star as himself’).
We’re in Blackpool, at the reading of Varthur McArthur’s new play, set in the circus, on a steamboat, so it is a play within a play (within a play?). Every theatrical stereotype is here, with some amusing moments, a touch of overacting, and an attempt to bring a farce that might work well on a stage to a socially-distanced screen production.
Simply put, A Killer Party is fun, with three or four toe-tapping songs (Shipload of Fools, Big Cat, Hands Out, I Did It For You), and a lot of drama: it doesn’t really matter who the murderer is, although the clues are there should you wish to play along. The detective is bumbling, the leading lady is a diva, the widow is a camgirl, and so on.
Presented in episodic form (there are nine episodes which can be purchased individually for £2.99, or you can get all nine for £25), it is your choice whether you watch them in digestable chunks, or binge the whole series. The short-form structure allows you to create your own viewing experience, but I watched the whole thing in one go.
With high production values in the visuals, A Killer Party uses the social distancing rules well, with suspects sequestered in seperate rooms once the mysterious death has occurred; elsewhere, individual windows add an element of fun and allows a chorus of Mountview students to join in, or a couple of main characters to appear in various guises simultaneously.
All the cast make the most of their big numbers, wince-inducing names, and silly coincidences. The detective (really a traffic cop called, well, Justine Case), is seen both as the inept but keen ingenue and the jaded, boozy memoir writer looking back at the cheesy murder she managed to crack.
Oscar Conlan-Morrey continues his scene-stealing digital career in fine form; Harriet Thorpe (fresh from Eurobeat and revived from being a murder victim in Midsomer) and Emma Salvo play Ms Case in the present and the past.
This is a fun, ephemeral piece with a lively cast: Rachel Tucker, vamping it up as the new widow; Cedric Neal and Debbie Kurup as a romantic, bluesy pair; Lucas Rush a pier end comic; Ashley Samuels the chorus boy plagued by visions; Jason Manford as McArthur; and Amara Okareke as the feline femme with a secret at her fingertips.
Directed by Benji Sperring, A Killer Party boasts lots of filmic flourishes that add interest, from virtual backgrounds to online chat, and the utilisation of the actors’ home spaces to give the illusion of a house where “all the rooms look the same”.
The American version takes itself rather more seriously, losing the comic caricatures of the stage manager and the detective. Otherwise the songs stand up well and the pace is a little faster, not stopping to linger on bits of business that hold up proceedings. I also felt that some numbers had been given a more ‘Broadway’ feel which fitted with the expectations of a stateside audience, and the bits of humour which have particular appeal to UK audiences have been omitted.
A Killer Party (US version) stars Krystina Alabado, Jackie Burns. Carolee Carmello, Miguel Cervantes, Drew Gehling, Alex Newell, Laura Osnes, Michael James Scott, Jarrod Spector, and Jessica Keenan Wynn.
I would wholeheartedly recommend both versions, which will certainly keep you entertained. The UK version is streaming through stream.theatre until 30 May 2021 and you can book tickets here or here. The US version is currently available on Vimeo On Demand, and tickets can be purchased here.
Image credit: A Killer Party UK
LouReviews received complimentary access to review A Killer Party UK.