Quote of the Day: Very few of us are what we seem. Agatha Christie
I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, so I was excited to see that the Guthrie Theater had Murder on the Orient Express included in their season. I didn’t realize, until I read the program booklet, that this adaptation by Ken Ludwig is the only stage adaptation that exists. And, upon further research, found out that he was approached by the Agatha Christie estate to write the stage script, which premiered on March 17, 2017 at the McCarter Theatre. Two films exist, one in 1974 starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot and the 2017 film starring Kenneth Branagh as the clever mustachioed detective. (Kenneth Branagh also reads the audible version, which highlights his enormous talents.) I’ve watched both movies and listened to the audio book, and I can tell you this is a fantastic stage adaptation!
The entire cast is spectacular. Each character is distinct, coming from many parts of the world. Their backgrounds are as varied as their accents. So, what connects all of them? Is it simply timing? All of these people happen to be on the train at the same time, in the winter, traveling from Istanbul to Calais, Yugoslavia. Coincidence? Of course not. This is a Christie murder mystery with a twist.
Most of the cast hail from the Twin Cities, except for our famed detective, played by Andrew May. With a slightly more subdued mustache, but sharper wit, this Poirot is a delight to watch. He’s a little more flirty and funny than usual. He’s on vacation, after all, but gets pulled into solving this grizzly murder that happened in the room next to his own.
Sally Wingert plays the loud and self-important Helen Hubbard. The minute she walks on stage, the audience is engaged and ready for her inimitable delivery, especially when it comes to humor. Michelle Barber plays Princess Dragonmiroff, an aristocrat from Russian. She is assisted by Greta Ohlsson, played with perfect comedic timing by Jane Froiland. Katie Bradley is Countess Andrenyi, who catches Poirot’s eye, but remains aloof. Adelin Phelps, understudy for China Brickey, played Mary Debenham in the performance that I saw on Saturday night. She was terrific.
Robert Johansen plays Michel and the Head Waiter, providing information about passengers and the train, while carefully observing the comings and goings. Peter Christian Hansen is both Colonel Arbuthnot and the ill-fated Samuel Ratchett, which I didn’t even notice until my friend pointed it out, and I read the program! Great job portraying these characters so distinctly! Gavin Lawrence is Monsieur Bouc, a clever sidekick to Poirot. Tyler Michaels King is the nervous, but angry, Hector MacQueen, who is at Ratchett’s beck and call, most of the time.
Risa Brainin directs this terrific production. Rob Koharchik designed the spectacular set. It feels like you’re in a train. We were all impressed with how the cars moved to change the scene. Devon Painter designed exquisite costumes. What a fun setting and fashion time period. Everyone was stunning. Michael Klaers did lighting design, and Michael Keck is sound and composing. Great atmospheric music and sound effects. Miko Simmons did Projection design, which is very cool as background through the train’s windows, etc.
This is an exquisite adaptation of one of Christie’s most well-known stories. Get your tickets fast! You can see Murder on the Orient Express at the Guthrie Theater through July 2, 2023.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you have a favorite Christie book/play/movie? What would make a good setting for a murder/mystery? Which character would you like to play?