Saturday, April 14, 2012

Magenta's "The 39 Steps" a Hit Homage to Hitchcock

Magenta Theater's production of Patrick Barlow's tribute to Alfred Hitchcock is a gem. The first night's audience ate it up.

It's no wonder. The Tony Award winning comedy-thriller is brilliant and oh, so much fun! Director  Bryan Schmidt is a genius. While he attributes the wonder of the work to the script, his comic knack is surely evident.

The show is a real undertaking not to be taken lightly. With over 25 locations, nearly a hundred costume pieces and as many set pieces, it's a wild circus. While creative, the sets changes are the show's only real downfall--done in the dark, they create far too much down time. They might have been more interesting had they taken place in the light before the audience's eyes.

And the four (count 'em, only four?) talented actors are challenged as well. Matt Newport is marvelous as the lead, Richard Hannay. The other three--Shaye Eller, Tony Provenzola and Justin Tanner--rather creatively play nearly 100 of the other characters, sometimes switching roles right on stage.

They embrace the strenuous job (you can see them sweating) of recreating a train chase, a nefarious spy organization, the hunt for a fugitive, and even a parade using "every theatrical trick in the book." (Well, maybe not all of them, but quite a few.) Some are quite humorous and enchanting even though they are sometimes simple.

Opening night played to a near full house. The odd, quirky play is full of melodrama, slapstick and broad humor. Many of Hitchcock's films are referenced in this comic adaption of the 1939 film.

The thriller follows Richard Hannay as he encounters a beautiful spy (wonderfully played by Eller who is killed off all too quickly, but she has other roles); He is framed for her murder and then must take a perilous journey across the United Kingdom to unravel the conspiracy.

From left to right: Tony Provenzola, Shaye Eller, Justin Tanner and
Matt Newport in Magenta Theater's  production of "The 39 Steps."
The show is full of hilarious gags--both visual and auditory. A bit of it was just dumb, but for the most part rather entertaining. While quite British, the play none-the-less makes fun of the English as well as Germans and Scots.

The lighting was well conceived and the costumes just too much fun. With so much good, it was almost easy to overlook the lack of attention to several non-period set pieces. It also bogged down a bit in the second act, but that is trivial compared to the the whole and Newport's well delivered and funny monologue (also in the second act).

Newport has a striking resemblance to a young Walt Disney and he played his role with true talent. The energy level from the entire cast was phenomenal. The ending a bit of a surprising twist. Even the curtain call was fun.

Don't miss this show!

The show plays April 14, 19-21, 25-27 at 7:30 p.m., as well as April 22 and 28 at 2 p.m. at the Magenta Theater, 606 Main St., Vancouver, Wash. Tickets are $12-$15. Details at their website.

CVTV taped part of the show and a featurette will be posted to YouTube later this week (I'll let you know when it's up). Here it is:

By Gregory E. Zschomler


  1. Thanks for taking the time to see the show and write up your thoughts. We appreciate it. The show is a challenge to stage, but so much fun that it is worth all of the work. We had a phenomenal opening night and are looking forward to a great run.