BWW Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS at Fulton Theatre
Fulton Theatre's current production of Murder on the Orient Express differs from their usual fare in a few key ways. Although the story is well-known and well loved, this production is a regional premiere. Secondly, the script was written by Tony award winning, and York native, Ken Ludwig. Lastly, the show represents the celebrated return of the non-musical to Fulton's main stage. For these reasons and more, the show is well worth seeing.
Warren Kelly stars as the great Belgian (NOT French!!!) detective, Hercule Poirot. Poirot is taking a well-deserved vacation on the famed Orient Express train, yet much like Jessica Fletcher, murder and mayhem follow the man wherever he goes. Kelly portrays Poirot with conviction, a keen observer who displays confidence, but never arrogance.
It is noteworthy, that Christie adapted some of Poirot's stories into plays, but replaced the famed detective with someone more vanilla. She feared that Poroiit's mannerisms and quirks would be too much of a distraction while on stage. Kelly understands that teamwork is important for such a show. He shines when he is supposed to, and steps back from the limelight, as needed, to give his cast mates a turn.
Will Ray has the unenviable job of playing Samuel Ratchett, an American tough guy with a bad attitude and a shady past. Ratchett threatens, harasses, and intimidates almost every other passenger on the train. Ray does a great job of having the audience hate him and also feel no sympathy when he is later found stabbed to death in his sleep.
Poirot reluctantly agrees to solve the crime and interviews an eccentric global cast of characters that reads as a who's who of the Fulton stage. Favorites include Susan Cella as Princess Dragominoff, Andrew Kindig as Monsieur Blanc, and the always funny, always talented Charis Leos as Helen Hubbard. Leos pops with energy and style. Similar to Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, Leos is an expert at both physical and verbal comedy.
Chrstie fans who have read the book or seen one of the movies will be very familiar with the story and outcome. Ludwig does not stray far from the source material. I found this a little disappointing, since I was hoping that he would incorporate some of the manic energy and farcial humor that his best plays are known for.
The story itself is dialogue heavy with most of the juicy parts occurring offstage. The plot demands attention of its audience but the payoff is worth it.
I would be remiss if I neglected to recognize the real stars of this show...the sets! Set design by William James Mohney was top notch. Each train setting was elaborate and very detailed. Settings were motorized to slide left and right, back and forth, based on the need of the story. They were impressive and Broadway caliber.
Lighting by Paul Black also set the mood, especially at the show's climax. The red gels were a great touch.
Make sure to get your tickets punched and climb all aboard Murder on the Orient Express , now through February 13 at the Fulton.