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Audrie Neenan stars in Goodspeed sleuth spoof

By Kristina Dorsey

Publication: The Day

Published October 18. 2012 4:00AM
Audrie Neenan portrays the amateur detective Miss Tweed in the Goodspeed's "Something's Afoot."

Audrie Neenan's character of Miss Tweed is out to catch a murderer in "Something's Afoot."

The problem: the dizzy would-be detective keeps thinking she's figured out whodunnit ... only to realize that person didn't do it.

It's all part of the spoof-laden fun in the musical, now at Goodspeed Opera House. "Something's Afoot" parodies all those Agatha Christie-type mysteries, complete with the requisite stock characters.

"People who are mystery aficionados will find all of their favorites here. There's the grande dame, there's the doctor, the colonel, the young ingenue and the young boy who arrives unexpectedly - the univited guest," Neenan says.

They gather in an isolated mansion during a pounding rainstorm. The lights go out. Someone gets murdered. And then someone else. And then someone else.

Playing the amateur sleuth of the show, Neenan doesn't go for camp, even though this is a comedy.

"I come from a long line of truth tellers, so I play her truthfully. ... Comedy has always been telling the truth to me. That's where you find the comedy - when you play the role with great joy and explode with great certainty. 'I solved the mystery!' I think I say that about eight times. 'I know who did it!' Then, 'Oh, no, it wasn't them.'"

Neenan knows from comedy. She's a Second City alum. She has gone on, though, to play dramatic roles as well as comedic ones. She was a nun alongside Meryl Streep in the film "Doubt"; working with Streep, Neenan says, "was just magic." Neenan has appeared numerous times as Judge Preston on "Law & Order: SVU." On Broadway, she portrayed Aunt Eller in the 2002 "Oklahoma!" revival and originated the role of Sister Mary Lazarus in the recent "Sister Act."

When it comes to playing Miss Tweed (whose name is a nod to Miss Marple), Neenan says, "I have more fun than anyone could ever imagine, just trying to solve the murders as well as corral this insane group of characters."

"Something's Afoot" first played at Goodspeed almost 40 years ago, in 1973. It was one of the show's stops before it moved to Broadway, where it opened in 1976. The following year, "Something's Afoot" bowed in London and earned an Olivier Award. (A Showtime TV version in 1984 starred Jean Stapleton and Andy Gibb.)

The musical has developed a cult following since then. The book, music and lyrics for "Something's Afoot" are by James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, with additional music by Ed Linderman.

Neenen says, "The songs are flirty, and they're light, and they're funny."

For audience members, there's great fun to be had in trying to determine the identity of the murderer.

"Oh, everyone's talking at intermission," Neenan says. "They're trying to figure out who it is. ... It's really quite the romp."

"Something's Afoot," Goodspeed Opera House, Main Street, East Haddam; runs through Dec. 9; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wed., 7:30 p.m. Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri., 3 and 8 p.m. Sat., and 2 p.m. Sun.; also, 6:30 p.m. Sun. through Nov. 4, and 2 p.m. Thurs. starting Nov. 8; tickets start at $27; (860) 873-8668, goodspeed.org.

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