Arts and Entertainment

Kitsap theater presidents unite in Musical Comedy Murders of 1940

From left, Leslie Engelhard, Christoper Ward and Raymond Deuel play investigators posing as performers who are trying to catch the Stage Door Slasher.  - Courtesy photo
From left, Leslie Engelhard, Christoper Ward and Raymond Deuel play investigators posing as performers who are trying to catch the Stage Door Slasher.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

For its first non-musical performance in over a decade, the board at the Central Stage Theater of County Kitsap in Silverdale chose a riotous comedy, matched a quirky director with a talented cast, and blended it into one heck of a production.

The CSTOCK staging of “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” – a murder mystery farce written by John Bishop – is also an illustration of the power of unity in the local theater community. The cast is comprised of emerging actors from all over Kitsap, but even more notably, the presidents of three different companies – Trina Williamson, CSTOCK; Pavlina Morris, Changing Scene Theatre Northwest; and Steve Goupil, Bremerton Community Theater – have all come together on this work.

“As far as anyone can tell, that’s the first time that’s happened here,” said Morris, director and a believer that theater communities should share resources for the greater good.

She is a portrait of that idea and has been involved in shows at BCT as well as at Port Orchard’s Western Washington Center for the Arts and her own Changing Scene theater this season. “Musical Comedy Murders” is Morris’ first gig at CSTOCK.

And what a hilarious gig it’s been (in a good way) she said. It opened April 20 and will be running at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 6 p.m. Sunday shows through May 13 at the Silverdale Community Center.

“Every single time I read this show it just gets funnier and funnier,” Morris said.

The comedic drama is set in a country New York mansion at a backer’s audition for a fledgling musical. It soon becomes apparent that the get together is a collection of members from the creative team involved in an earlier Broadway production which went horribly awry and ended with three women murdered by the elusive Stage Door Slasher.

Bodies hit the floor, but it’s richly funny with slapstick, razor wit, a bit of cross-dressing, knife-dodging, a house rigged with trap doors and uproarious happenings abounding as the characters point fingers at each other, looking for the killer.

“The style itself is a little different – very physical, very overblown, it’s stylized,” Morris said. “These are almost caricatures more than characters. A lot of the cast members were asked to take risks as an actor.”

The owner of the mansion and financial player Elsa Van Grossenknueten is cast by 20-year community theater veteran Karlene George. Another veteran, Jerry Vogt — in his 16th show at CSTOCK — plays the role of undercover agent Michael Kelly.

Some actors new to the CSTOCK stage include Raymond Deuel playing Irish tenor Patrick O’Reilly, Christopher Ward playing the comedian Eddie McCuen and Derek Niegemann playing Roger Hopewell.

“A lot of these folks, it’s their first CSTOCK show,” Morris said.

“They all work tremendously well together as an ensemble, and there’s so many years of experience on that stage. The more I direct, the more I realize that directors need to let actors act.”

Morris will be back in the director’s chair for an original thriller called “Trick of the Light” at Changing Scene in June, while CSTOCK’s next show will be a “Kids for Kids” production of “Joseph and the Amazing Techicolor Dreamcoat” with music by Andrew Lloyd Weber starting July 6. Visit or for more information.

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