Westside Theatre Foundation presents comedy

Published 5:25 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018

When a thespian group tries to persuade a wealthy woman to underwrite their show, things don’t go as planned in the comedy “Murders of 1940.”

Presented by the Westside Theatre Foundation, the comedy takes place off the coast of New England.

“A group of actors, songwriters and director are meeting at this old mansion out in the country that this rich lady owns,” co-director of the play Jack Burns said. “They are trying to get her to fund their next project. So they are going to audition the material for an audience of one to get her enthusiastic and fund the show,” Burns said.

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But when bodies start dropping like flies, it is apparent the infamous “Stage Door Slasher,” who had already killed three chorus girls in the group’s previous production, has returned.

Poking antic fun at the more ridiculous aspects of “show biz” and the corny thrillers of Hollywood’s heyday, Burns described the “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” as a farcical whodunit.

“There are lots of twists and turns in the plot and it is really funny,” he said.

In addition to its whacky characters, Burns said, the production includes secret passageways and a German maid who is apparently four different people.

Written by John Bishop, “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” was first performed at the Circle Repertory Company in New York City, eventually making its way to Broadway in 1987.

This weekend the play opened at the Strand, 717 Clay St., and will resume production at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Burns said he was first introduced to the comedy years ago at a theater in Jackson.

“I really enjoyed it because people are coming and going and a book case opens and an arm reaches out and pulls somebody out of a conversation,” Burns said.

Tori East, who is co-directing with Burns, said she has enjoyed the challenge of directing the show.

“I usually don’t do plays. I am a big musical person, and it is very interesting to watch,” East said, because the actors have so many lines to learn.

“With a musical there is mostly just music,” East said, adding, “And I am impressed with how well they are doing with these crazy lines that are so particular and have to be said in the right order.”

The lines have to be said accurately, first time WTF performer Kylie Hager said, “Because it sets up the joke that may be 10 pages later, and if you get one word wrong then the joke doesn’t make sense.”

There are 10 actors in the production, Burns said, some of which are WTF regulars and others who are like Hager, performing on a Vicksburg stage for the first time.

“We have got some brand new people in the cast who are brand new to Vicksburg — they are not brand new to acting, and then we have seasoned performers,” Burns said.

“The fun part about the show,” Hager said, is that even though audience members may think they know who the culprit is, because of “odd clues” throughout the performance, they may begin to have doubts.

Tickets for the “Murders of 1940” are $10 in advance at the Highway 61 Coffeehouse, 1101 Washington St., and BrownPaperTickets.com or $15 at the door.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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