The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940

Pictured is the cast of "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940."

Mary Ellen Fawk, director of Chicago Heights Drama Group’s “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” expects their production of the comedy to be a hit with fans both at home and with English audiences.

“It’s reminiscent of the play ‘Noises Off’ and some of the British farces that are just silly,” she said. “I think they’re really going to take to it and feel like they had a fun evening at the theater.”

Drama Group’s “Comedy” production opens June 7 and running through June 16 at their Milord Studio Theatre. They will then then take their show to Hastings, England as part of their long running theater exchange program with the Stables Theatre.

“Musical” follows a theater production team attempting to rebound following a disastrous Broadway production. Unfortunately, they are joined by an entity closely resembling the murderer in their recent flop and who aims to wreak havoc to the crew.

Penned by John Bishop, whose CV includes work on films such as “Clear and Present Danger” and “Beverly Hills Cop III,” “Musical” made its Broadway debut in 1987.

Drama Group first brought “Musical” to area audiences about two decades ago.

“It’s got a lot of comedic elements that are old standards, almost vaudevillian, kinds of jokes and pranks,” Fawk said. “There’s a lot of red herrings in it that are reminiscent of late 1930s and 1940s (comedy) film industry and theater industry.”

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Lilliana Mitchel is Elsa Von Grossenkneueten, a wealthy Broadway producer and host to the production crew, and Regina Gadotti is her maid, Helsa, in Drama Group’s “Musical.” Also appearing in the comedy is Ken Garner as officer Michael Kelly, Nick Markionni as play director Ken De La Maize, Geoffrey Purvis as comedian Eddie McCuen and Jeanne Rega-Markionni as Play producer Marjorie Baverstock.

“We’ve got some really fabulous cast members,” Fawk said. “It’s just non-stop laughter and one thing right after the other.”

Drama Group’s “Musical” production will make its way to the U.K. following its Chicago Heights run as part of a long-running Exchange Program with the Hastings, England-based Stables Theatre. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the program, where Drama Group members perform in England.

More than two dozen Drama Group cast and crew members, along with members of their families, will make their way to Hastings, which is located on England’s southern coast and is 50 miles from London. They will make their way abroad right after the final performance on June 15. Their first show for British audiences is scheduled for June 21.

Fawk has participated in past exchange programs with Stables Theater over the course of the last half dozen years.

“England has always been known as a treasure trove of great actors and great talent and sophisticated performances and productions, whether it’s in theater or film,” Fawk said. “To have the opportunity to work with actors and directors there and see how they approach things is pretty wonderful … it also gives us the opportunity to meet and make wonderful friends.”

Next up for Drama Group is a production of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Tony Award winning musical “In The Heights,” scheduled to open at Milord Studio Theatre Aug. 2.


Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.