With a train full of suspects and an alibi for each one, Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Orient Express is the perfect mystery for world famous detective Hercule Poirot. Now Stamford area sleuths will have a chance to see this new stage adaptation of Christie’s masterpiece when it plays in Curtain Call’s Dressing Room Theatre January 20 through February 6.
Adapted from Agatha Christie’s masterpiece by two-time Tony-nominated playwright Ken Ludwig, and directed by long-time Christie aficionado, Joel Fenster, this first show of the New Year will take you on a suspenseful, thrilling ride aboard the legendary Orient Express.
“It has been a few years since we presented a great Christie mystery, so I’m thrilled to have this one kick off 2022 here,” said Curtain Call executive director Lou Ursone. “Once I decided to present the show, there was no one other than Joel (Fenster) that I would ask to direct as he has directed most of the Christie canon of shows,” Ursone added.
Fenster has been a big Christie fan for nearly 50 years. He explained, “The 1974 film version of Murder on the Orient Express was my intro to Dame Agatha. I remember watching it when I was seven or eight. It both enthralled me and scared me. It eventually led me to picking up the book…which led to another Christie book…and another….and another…I had read most of the Poirot novels by the time I was twelve.”
“We’ve assembled an amazing cast for this show,” Fenster said. “As a director, there can be a tendency to rely on the familiar when it comes to casting a show. But I’ve only worked with one of these talented actors before this show. I was only familiar with two or three others. Most were new to me. In the twenty years I’ve been working in community theater and the ten Agatha Christie mysteries I’ve been involved in casting, I have never seen as large a turnout for auditions as I did for this show,” he said.
Possibly Christie’s most well-loved creation, Murder On The Orient Express follows the adventures of the dashing Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Phil Garfinkle) as he is called back from Istanbul to London on urgent business. He intends to book a first-class compartment on the Orient Express, run by his former friend and colleague, Monsieur Bouc (Eric Marquez). The train is surprisingly full, but Bouc manages to secure Poirot a spot in the first-class cabin. While aboard the Orient Express, Poirot meets a host of peculiar characters: an aging Russian princess (Gail Yudain), her Swedish companion (Celine Montaudy), a Hungarian countess (Maggie Haber), a Minnesota housewife (Ann Alford), a Scottish colonel (Mat Young), an English governess (Sally Rose Zuckert), a French conductor (Jim Muthersbaugh), a disagreeable American businessman (Tom Petrone), and his anxious secretary (Aaron Newcome).
Though many will already know the ending, it is the ride that makes the production so much fun and Ken Ludwig injects a good mix of humor into the proceedings. The Christie estate approached Ludwig about adapting some of her books for the stage. He picked Orient Express because “it’s a great title and a great solution.”
“I bet 90 percent of the people I talked to about the play don’t remember the solution,” Ludwig says. “They remember the movie, but forget the ending or mix it up with other famous titles like ‘The Mousetrap’ or ‘And Then There Were None.’ And, of course, there’s a whole slew of young people who come to the theater who don’t know the story at all. So do me a favor and please don’t give it away!”
In addition to Fenster, the production team includes set design by Peter Barbieri, Jr, lighting design by Jamie LaJoie, costumes by Robin Mazzola, stage management by Tori Ready and Kevin Tangney.
“This season has been far from normal,” Ursone said, noting the roller coaster-like process of running a theatre during a pandemic. In that regard, Curtain Call has been following the Broadway protocols of requiring vaccination of its cast, staff, crew and audience. (Full details are available on the theatre’s website.)
Fenster added, “It’s been an interesting process navigating rehearsals in a Covid world. The main objective has been doing our best to keep our cast and crew as safe and as healthy as we can. We live in interesting times, but I know this is a show that will entertain all lovers of great mysteries and we have a strong cast of professionals who will prove it.”
Performances will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:00PM, from January 20 to February 6. The Dressing Room Theatre is located at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue, Stamford, CT. Doors open one half hour before show time. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and $20 for children under 21. (Discounted Flex Pass subscriptions offer savings of 25% and more.) Box Office: 203-461-6358 or on the web at www.curtaincallinc.com.
Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is produced in cooperation with The City of Stamford with support from the CT Office of the Arts and funding from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. It is produced through special arrangement with Concord Theatricals.
Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County’s BEST LOCAL THEATRE GROUP ten years running in the Annual Readers’ Poll of the Fairfield County Weekly and has received similar BEST OF awards from StamfordPlus magazine for 2008 through 2021. Curtain Call received The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2011 and the ACE Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County in 2016.