Friday, August 8, 2014

Fantastical Theatricals' murder mystery is a Whovian love letter

Greeted by a woman in a black dress with curly blonde hair, I knew I was in the presence of River Song, I'm sorry, Cascade Cadenza (portrayed by Kathy Hobbs). From then, we began our meal at The Chop House before the music started and the show began.

If you missed my post a couple of months ago, I talked about the upcoming performance of an original Doctor Who-themed murder mystery that would be presented by local theater troupe Fantastical Theatricals. I'm so pleased to say that I attended the opening night performance and had a tremendous time.

Local actor Tom Phillips
as The Doctor
Doctor Who has gained a great deal of popularity in the United States over the last few years and it's hip to be a Whovian. Heading into the Eighth series, which premieres August 23, Whovians are excited to see the new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, in action as the newly regenerated Time Lord. Doctor! WHO is the Murderer?! had all the things you love about Doctor Who, including versions of Amy, Rory, Clara, River, and the Doctor himself. The company was made up of actors very capable in their roles and Director/Writer/Actor Kathy Hobbs holds everything together.

At the beginning of the show we find that Cadenza has assembled former companions of The Doctor for a Who-vention in the hopes that it would attract a very special Guest of Honor. (The details that went into her bringing the group together were great, especially if you've seen Angels Take Manhattan and know Amy and Rory's fate.) A wrench is thrown into their plan when The Master reveals himself and attempts to co-opt the Who-vention for his own dastardly purposes. A series of events lead to put the murder in murder mystery and we're left with The Doctor trying to solve the problem in this WHO-dunnit.

I was very pleased with the send-ups to Doctor Who in this show. It would be so easy for someone to write
a play like this and be casual about the references, but Hobbs referenced many major plot details from Series 2 to Series 7, especially once we learn that Clara (or Claire, I should say) is a part of the plot. She drew out personality traits of the characters and the actors really turned up the camp, renaming Rory "Boring" for instance. Everyone used appropriate accents, as well, and I was especially impressed with the actress playing Hammie Pond Williams and her ability to sustain the Scottish accent. But I was absolutely blown away by Tom Phillip's portrayal of The Doctor, in this case Tennant's Doctor, who in her writing Hobbs gives an excellent explanation as to why he would show up.
Phillips and Kathy Hobbs as
Cadence Cadenza (River Song)

Hobbs said that she featured this incarnation of The Doctor in the production because she had Phillips in mind for the role. "I knew that Tom Phillips, who is an excellent actor and all around swell guy did an excellent impression of David Tennant." She also mentioned that Tennant's Doctor is her Doctor, which makes me like her even more! I asked Tom what it was like becoming the Tenth Doctor?

"Anytime you play a favorite character, it's a treat, but the bar is higher when you're playing someone who's so well known and distinctive. I know it has to be good for myself as an actor, but especially for fans. And especially for this particular Doctor. Find the voice, the mannerisms, the melody of his speech, certain hallmarks that are clearly Ten's. But it's not just about doing an impression, you have to find the person as well, and try to come as close as you can to Tennant while still being Tom."

Spoilers, Sweetie
So as to avoid spoilers (because: Spoilers, Sweetie) I'll just share that if you are a lover of Doctor Who, you simply must see this production. Hell, if you just love good theater and having a great time, but aren't verse in the Whoniverse, you must go as well. I was seated with a couple of ladies who were not terribly familiar with Doctor Who, but still had a great time because of the amazing cast. Jessie and I also made new companions in The Smiths who found this show and made it one of their first outings in Lexington as they had just moved here. It was so neat to get seated with new folks and meet new friends.

If you go, definitely dress up. What convention is complete without a cosplay costume contest? Even Cadence's Who-vention has one! You'll get the chance to win a prize. You'll also win a prize if you guess who the murderer is!

I had the opportunity to ask some more questions of Director Kathy Hobbs, and Pete Sears, who plays The Master

Kentucky Geek Girl: This show is full of fun references to plot points in the new series. Did you enjoy writing this love letter to Doctor Who? Did you re-watch the series?"
Kathy Hobbs: I very much enjoyed the challenge of parodying the series and yes, it is definitely meant as a love letter to Whovians, while maintaining the murder mystery dinner theatre format. OF COURSE I re-watched the series, many times. It was very important to me to have a good handle on the character's voices, not just the Doctor, but the companions as well. Sometimes it was so frustrating- even though I KNEW exactly what was going to happen in each scene, I had to wait until I could "hear" the characters before I could write the dialogue.

KGG: Why did you start Fantastical Theatricals?
KH: To be fair, I didn't start the theatre alone, but the best answer to the question was to fill a gap in my life. I have always been active in Lexington's theatre community, but I had recently gone through a terrible personal loss. This gave me something to do and a creative outlet. Plus, it wasn't long before Fantastical Theatricals developed a following. We do have some very devoted audience members locally and across the state, and they mean a great deal to me as well as the regular cast members. Next year is our TENTH anniversary, can you believe it?

KGG: Why do you think that live theatre is important?
KH: I know theatre, and all live performances are important, because they connect  artists to each other, to collaborate and share their craft, leaning from the experience and growing as artists. Live performance connects the audience to the artists in a way that  passively watching a television show or movie simply cannot match. No performance is ever exactly the same, no matter what and it's the nuances and tiny differences from one show to the next that makes the evening special, and come to life.The audience becomes a vital part of the event. Every live performance needs the energy of the audience to thrive, and Fantastical Theatricals makes a point of letting the audience know how very important they are to us.

Kentucky Geek Girl: Do you think that The Master is evil, or just misunderstood? How did you get into his mind?
Pete Sears: Well. If you go by the new series, (I don't remember much about him in the old series. Tom Baker was my Doctor and his Master looked as if someone had taken a cheese grater to his face.) it's fairly clear that the Gallifrey High Council had a hand in making the Master into the maniac he is today. That saId, there were decisions he made along the way that make him not entirely innocent or blameless.
As i've said in some of our performances, "Look, It's not about the megalomania. I just have enormous trust issues. I can't trust anyone to run the universe properly, and so it falls to me to see that it gets RUN. The murdering and destruction is entirely incidental."

When you get right down to it, The Master is someone who brings out the worst in people in the same way that the Doctor brings out the best in them. Does that make him evil?  Not necessarily, but it does lean into his general tendencies, and would be an unbearable burden to a GOOD man.

Doctor! WHO is the Murderer?! is in its last weekend of performances after a month-long run at both Blue Licks Battlefield State Park and The Chop House.

Doctor! WHO is the Murderer?!?
Fantastical Theatricals
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Dinner seating promptly at 6:30, show begins between 7:45pm at 8pm
Friday August 8
Saturday August 9

Luncheon seating promptly at 11:30am, show begins between 12:45 pm and 1:00pm
Saturday August 9
For more information call 859-412-1792

Ticket Purchase is available ONLINE ONLY

Admission $15.00 per child or adult plus menu ordering (Ages 6 to adult)

The Chop House
2640 Richmond Rd
Lexington, KY 40509

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