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MTC plans ‘A Killer Party’ online

After adapting two traditional on-stage musicals for online presentation, Millennial Theatre Company Director Joe Asente picked a show created with pandemic restrictions in mind for its third, and hopefully last, online production.

That doesn’t mean “A Killer Party: The Musical” was easier.

“It was almost the most difficult of the three because it has so many moving parts that need to match up,” Asente said. “‘Songs for a New World’ was individual songs. If song one and song two were not filmed in the same style with the same sight lines, it didn’t matter so much. And with ‘The Last Five Years’ it was only two actors and I shot it myself. This needed precise camera work.”

“A Killer Party” — featuring music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and a book by Kait Kerrigan and Rachel Axler — was created so the actors could work remotely and record their own parts. But those characters interact throughout the production. The shots have to line up so it looks like Actor A is talking to Actor B, even if the scenes were filmed at different times.

That created little obstacles. Actors working in different states had to have the same props. Riley Burke, who plays detective Justine Case, is supposed to be interviewing different characters while standing in the doorway of the rooms where each is isolated. Burke had to shoot her scenes in three different houses so the door frames behind her matched the rooms where the other actors filmed their scenes.

They did nine weeks of rehearsals online, and all of the actors got a specific shot lists before recording their parts.

“A lot of work went into the details,” Asente said.

The director thought the show was worth the effort. “A Killer Party” was written after the COVID-19 pandemic started, and the first production featured an all-star cast of Broadway veterans, including Jeremy Jordan, Laura Osnes, Miguel Cervantes, Alex Newell and Carolee Carmello.

“I watched it over the summer when it debuted with Broadway actors and instantly thought it was one of the most well thought-out pieces of theater to come out of the pandemic,” Asente said. “A lot of the others felt like they were haphazardly thrown together. This felt like a cohesive piece of theater.”

The story revolves around Varthur McArthur, the artistic director of a struggling theater inviting his past actors and collaborators to the first read of his latest work, described as an “immersive murder mystery dinner party.” When the artistic director becomes the murder victim, detective Justine Case arrives to solve the crime and, not surprisingly, most of the guests have a reason to want to see McArthur dead.

“There’s a lot of inside industry humor that really struck me,” Asente said. “At the same time, it’s not so full of jargon that the uninitiated won’t be able to follow it. And who doesn’t love a good mystery?”

He also was impressed by the music.

“There are 15, 20 huge production numbers and not a slow song in the bunch. You’d leave a recording session for this with the song stuck in your head for a week.”

Asente and music director Savannah Florkowski took advantage of working remotely by opening up auditions. The cast is a mix of local talent, actors with local ties who’ve moved out of the area and others who discovered the auditions online.

The 18-member cast — Pedro Ka’awaloa, Riley Burke, Rebecca Williams, Cheney Morgan, Ty Hanes, Olivia Noel, Will Ellis, Mariana Elosua, Sheldon Markel, Rachel Ruggieri, Liam McGettigan, Dominick Spisak, John Cruz, Samantha Toberman, Allison Choong, Lauren Stebelton, Erin Heisey and Christina Worcester — spans six states and three countries.

The production will be available for streaming Friday through April 30.

Asente isn’t sure what’s next for MTC, but they’re considering a live production for the summer if it can be done.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “What’s best for us might be to do something outside or maybe something in an inside venue. Whatever we do, it will be the best decision based on scientific data for the safety of everyone.”

Review

WHAT: Millennial Theatre Company — “A Killer Party: The Musical”

WHEN: Friday through April 30

WHERE: Online

HOW MUCH: $20 for single viewer and $30 for family viewing. www.millennial theatre.org/tickets.

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