Jennifer Newman, Marc de la Concha and Jock Brocki sit around a plain table at Cape Fear Regional Theatre. They talk like they are involved in a rapid-fire improv. The jokes fly back and forth, and the three actors seem to build off one another's comments, moving through the quips as if they were planned. In just a couple of days, the trio will brave a dark and stormy night, a moving stage and a murder. They will come as Miss Scarlet,
Wadsworth and Mr. Boddy, respectively. They are just three of the actors in the upcoming musical "Clue: On Stage."
"As soon as I heard they were doing 'Clue,' I immediately started researching everything I possibly could on Miss Scarlett. I thought if I could get this, I would cry," Newman said.
"We missed the crying part," Brocki quickly quipped. The three actors immediately laughed. The rapport they have with each other is palpable and engaging.
The play is an adaptation of the 1985 movie "Clue," directed by Jonathan Lynn and starring Tim Curry.
Newman said she loved the movie and, of course, the "confident, sexy" Miss Scarlet. While she idolized the confidence that Miss Scarlet had and went into the audition with the goal of landing the part, every actor has to take their roles in a "different direction."
"I feel like you have to give at least some nods to the classics … I don't think anyone could be the exact character they saw in the movie. It's important to give an audience a new take on all these characters," Newman said.
Newman and De la Concha are local actors, and Brocki is a self-proclaimed, semi-retired actor living in the Triangle area. De la Concha is also the Director of Education for Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
Brocki jokes that De la Concha didn't even need to audition for Wadsworth.
"I had to do a little bit of an audition," De la Concha said.
Brocki laughed and gave a playful eye roll. Picking up on his humor, and having a naturally happy-go-lucky demeanor, De la Concha added, "I knew just a little bit before."
De la Concha plays Wadsworth, the same role played by Curry in "Clue," the motion picture. When De la Concha speaks about Curry, he remarks on the iconic nature of his depiction of the character and a sort of mixture of both excitement and intimidation about playing this part.
"I'm no Tim Curry. He's amazing, but you want to pay respect to something that is so iconic but bring a new take to it," he said.
Something the three actors can agree on without hesitation, the true magic and finesse of the play, is the fast-paced conversation that takes place between the ten actors in the production and quick movements requiring precision.
"You can't mess up the details. The characters go over everything with a fine-tooth comb so you can't mess it up," De la Concha said.
"No pressure," Newman said while laughing.
The stage and set for this production are multi-layered; Brocki helped with the construction. It will have many hidden doors and rooms, and, according to Brocki, the set itself will have a lot of movement — not just the actors.
"For an audience, there's a lot of eye candy," Brocki said.
The show's director, Mary Catherine Burke, wants the audience to feel like they are a part of the board game. The actors will be almost surrounded on three sides by their audience at many points.
"Things are sliding and moving … the audience will feel like they are in the game with us," De la Concha said.
With all the movement, the actors admit that because the show is a murder mystery, they have to make sure the movements are precise. The audience is supposed to want to figure out the murder alongside the characters, so the recreation of scenes and details matters. The finer details, Newman said, are the hardest part.
"It's hard to make sure you are where you need to be when you need to be there," she paused before continuing, "in heels."
"I don't have heels," Brocki laughed.
"I guess I could if it was part of the costume," De la Concha said.
The three performers stop for a second, look at one another then share another giggle.
The music for the show will be original to this production. There will be a lot of sound cues for the actors, and the music, the actors promise, will be a large part of the show and its mounting suspense. The theater hired Los Angeles producer David Abbinant to create the music and sound cues for the play.
"There's an entire scene with no lines. It's basically like a dance number in a play," Newman said.
"Clue: On Stage" will be made up of 11 actors. It will be about 90 minutes in length and offer no intermission. Within five minutes of the start of the show, the audience will be able to see all the actors on stage together.
The key to the performance was keeping it going at a fast pace, just like the original movie.
"The cast is together most of the evening. They are so suspicious of one another they want to stay together, so they don't get murdered," De la Concha said.
De la Concha said this show will not be a run of the mill one direction show. The actors will be surrounded on three sides by the audience — an intentional involvement that differs from regular plays at the theatre.
"We say you are in the game. You are in it with us," he said.
The actors share a few laughs about the start of rehearsal, including De la Concha telling his fellow cast members that they would all have to play his Golden Girls' version of the Clue board game at some point.
During the first rehearsal, they recalled, Burke asked each of them to talk about their favorite games growing up. Brocki said marbles. De la Concha said Nintendo. Newman loved Monopoly. She's competitive, she said.
"I like Monopoly, Risk … anything that requires complete domination," Newman laughed.
"Okay, Miss Scarlett," De la Concha chuckled.
"That's why she was cast," Brocki added.
The quick jokes and back-forth of their conversation is just a little peek into the chemistry that the crowd can expect on the stage during "Clue: On Stage." This sort of chemistry and connection is what De la Concha said was the easiest part of putting this particular play together. The play requires its actors to have fun and be involved in a lot of conversation and physical comedy.
"We did this play merely because it's fun. It's engaging. It takes your mind off of what happened that day. All you can think about is who did it," said Ashley Owen, Marketing Director for Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
"Clue: On Stage" will run from March 24 through April 10. Tickets are $15 to $25. Military and educator discounts are available during special Military Appreciation and Educator Appreciation nights.
The show is rated PG for parental guidance. It contains mild and comedic themes of violence and adult humor.