‘Musical Comedy Murders’ rescheduled for Fall

Clayton Theatre’s “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” features Kevin Coren, Bill Dietz, Teresa Grosserode, Peggy Scalise, James Bradley Jr. and Ron Craven. Nathalie Archangel is peeking through the curtain. The show has been rescheduled to Oct. 8-24. (Cara Bent photo)

Columns Sally Hogarty Stage StruckEditor’s note: “On the Marquee” columnist Kathy McCarty is on temporary leave. Sally Hogarty, the Pioneer’s former “Stage Struck” columnist, will be covering performing arts in the short term.

Murder, mayhem and music combine for hilarious fun at the Westchester estate of Elsa Von Grossenknueten when the creative team of a new Broadway musical assembles for a backer’s audition in Clayton Theatre Company’s “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.”

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus and the mayhem it is causing, this wonderful comedy has been postponed. Originally scheduled for March 19 – April 4, the show will now run Oct. 8-24. With its colorful characters, irreverent wit, lots of secret passageways and a German maid, who is apparently four different people, this show is a hoot and full of laughs. Something we could all use right now. I did this show ages ago and had a ball as the perpetually thirsty lyricist Bernice Roth. I definitely learned how to do a good pratfall.

If you already have tickets to this laugh-a-minute farce, go to claytontheatrecompany.com to exchange them for a date in October. The show, directed by Shellie-winner LaTonya Watts, takes place at Endeavor Hall, 6008 Center St., Clayton. For tickets, go to claytontheatrecompany.com.

Rather than resting on its laurels for the successful production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” Pittsburg Community Theatre is already in action with another show. This time, the energetic group has chosen a comedy produced through its new entity PCT@Steeltown, which complements the company’s main stage season at the California Theatre.

Sadly however, Tom Stoppard’s wacky “The Real Inspector Hound,” scheduled March 20-29, has cancelled due to coronavirus protection measures. “Hound of the Baskervilles” is set for Aug. 14-23, however all scheduling everywhere is in flux. So check the theatre’s website or call for possible changes; 925-427-1611, pittsburgcommunitytheatre.org.

As many of you know, Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) has created havoc for independent contractors, including writers, performers and theater companies. The law requires classifying most performers and stage crew as W-2 employees even if they are receiving only a stipend for personal expenses or working only a few hours a year. Community theater groups simply cannot afford the cost of complying.

Charles Peoples III, Michael Patrick Gaffney and Chris Boccard appeared in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” in late 2019. It turned out to be Contra Costa Musical Theatre’s last show. (Linda Carter photo).

While state legislators try to repair the damage, more theater companies are making drastic changes or closing altogether. The latest tragedy involves Contra Costa Musical Theatre (CCMT). The 59-year-old company closed its doors Feb. 29. Fortunately for season ticket subscribers and patrons, Lesher Center for the Arts Presents will produce the company’s upcoming production of “9 to 5 the Musical.”

The fun show with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton runs April 10-May 10 at 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek. Call 925-943-SHOW or go to lesherartscenter.org for tickets.

As for CCMT, long-time board member and volunteer Elizabeth Wood says the company has suspended operations for now but will return. “We need to regroup, figure out how much we need for part-time employees with all the benefits, taxes, etc.

Wood, who has been involved with CCMT for 49 of its 59 years, estimates it will take about 18 months to get reestablished with grants and a new organizational plan. But, she’s confident that CCMT will once again produce entertaining musicals, albeit on a smaller scale.

Sally Hogarty is a well-known Bay area actress, editor of the Orinda News and arts columnist for the East Bay Times. Contact her at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.