Adapted for the stage by D.D. Brooke
From the TV play by the writers of MURDER, SHE WROTE Richard Levinson & William Link
Where and When
19th – 21st October 2023 @ The Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
Rehearsal for Murder is a classic thriller, adapted for the stage by D.D. Brooke from the TV play written by the legendary award-winning writing team of Richard Levinson and William Link, whose work includes Murder, She Wrote and Columbo.
Playwright Alex Dennison is left heartbroken when his fiancée and leading lady Monica Welles is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her stage debut. On the anniversary of that ill-fated night, Alex assembles the same cast and crew in the same theatre, for a reading of his new play. But as the reading begins, it becomes clear that Alex believes that Monica was murdered and he intends to uncover her killer…
- Alex Dennison – Rob Cording-Cook
- Ernie – Russ Guillaume
- Sally Bean – Rosie Nye
- Monica Welles – Tracie Billington-Beardsley
- Loretta / Police Officer 2 / Santoro – Suzanne Viney
- Lloyd Andrews – Colin Pile
- Bella Lamb – Shelley Barter
- Karen Daniels – Lindsay McGowan
- David Mathews – David Beddard-Bankes
- Leo Gibbs – James Bourner
- Man in Auditorium – Andy Gill
- Second Man in Auditorium – Richard Scotson
- Police Officer 1 – Calum Hearne
- Director – Tracey Nicholls
- Assistant Director – Sali Pike
- Stage Manager – Melody Utley
- Props/Armourer/ASMs – Dee Hawes
- ASMs – Callum Hearne, Richard Scotson
- Prompt – Judy Garrett
- Visuals and Sound – Nick Clark
- Costumes – Heather Birchenough
- Publicity and Programme – Richard Neal
For the Tivoli Theatre
- Technical and Production Manager – Kyle Best
- Assistant Stage Manager – Chandler Whitelock
A classic 80s thriller – re-imagined for the stage – is being performed in Wimborne. Rehearsal for Murder, adapted by D. D. Brooke from the TV play written by ward-winning writing team of Richard Levinson and William Link, is at the Tivoli until Sturday, October 21.
Directort Tracey Nicholls said “Everyone loves a good murder mystery – nothing too nasty, just a good excuse to take on the role of detective and try to work out whodunnit. Rhearsal For Murder, set in an empty theatre, combines my love for both theatre and the murder mystery genre. It has everything you could want from a good suspense thriller.”
The cast are Rob Cording-Cook, Tracie Billington-Beardsley, Rosie Nye, Colin Pile, Michelle Barter, Lindsay McGowan, David Beddard-Banks, James Bourner, Andy Gill, Russ Guillaume, Suzanne Viney, Richard Scotson and Calum Hearne.
The success of a play is more than just people on stage remembering their lines and interacting, it requires buckets of creativity to give the audience a really entertaining evening.
And Wimborne Drama Productions nail it once again with top marks to the creative team headed up by director Tracey Nicholls.
From members of the 13-strong cast appearing in unexpected places to stylish scenery and innovative backcloths, there are constant surprises for the audience.
By the same authors as Murder, She Wrote and Columbo, it tells the story of playwright Alex Dennison (Rob Cording-Cook) who is left heartbroken when his fiancée and leading lady Monica is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her stage debut.
On the anniversary of that ill-fated night, Alex assembles the same cast and crew in the same theatre, for a reading of his new play – what does Alex have in mind?
A consummate professional, Rob never disappoints and he is utterly convincing in this demanding role as is Tracie Billington-Beardsley as Monica. She makes a number of surprise appearances – but I won’t spoil it by revealing how they occur.
Supporting the two protagonists are the participants in Alex’s play with feisty performances from Michelle Barter as producer Bella, and Lindsay McGowan as actress Karen. The three male actors Lloyd (Colin Pile), Leo (James Bourner) and David (David Beddard-Banks) are also convincing as they try to work out the playwright’s intentions. Rosie Nye is delightfully enthusiastic as Alex’s secretary Sally.
The ensemble is completed by Russ Guillaume as Ernie the caretaker, Calum Hearne as the police officer, Suzanne Viney in three small roles and Andy Gill and Richard Scotson as mysterious ‘men in the auditorium’.
And believe me – you won’t guess the end.
The Tivoli was pretty full on the Thursday evening but see if you can get a ticket as it’s running until 21 October.
A murder mystery/thriller is always good solid and reliable fodder for the incredibly loyal supporters of Wimborne Drama, who came out in force for the first night of this play. It’s always lovely to see a full theatre. There was barely a spare seat in the downstairs auditorium and there were even seats taken in the balcony. I was certainly intrigued to see this offering from Levinson and Link, the team behind Columbo and Murder She Wrote.
It is the anniversary of the untimely death of a famous onscreen actress and up-and-coming Broadway star, Monica Welles. A famous playwright (and Monica’s former fiancé), Alex Dennison, assembles all those who last engaged with her, in the very theatre in which she had starred in the opening night of Alex’s new play the previous year. Even though Monica’s death was ruled as a suicide following bad reviews from the critics, Alex believes otherwise. He plans to prove it and trap a killer under the pretence of reading excerpts from his latest play.
It was quite a different production from the normal murder mystery/ thriller, which was refreshing, if not a little challenging. Set in the 1980s (though the costumes were a little inconsistent in this regard) and in an otherwise empty theatre, there was a nicely eerie feel about the production. It was good to see a large cast (13) as well.
Alex (Rob Cording-Cook) is the lynchpin of the production being onstage for the whole time and driving the story. A safe pair of hands was required for this sort of part and Rob certainly provided those. However, a greater range of emotion and intensity of emotion both vocally and physically would have helped to sustain the action and maintain tension and energy, particularly in the slower sections.
Whilst I appreciate difficulties in casting in amateur theatre and the greater tolerance in age ranges that are necessarily required, the age difference between Alex and Monica (Tracie Billington-Beardsley) unfortunately was too great to be convincing. Having subsequently researched the play, I found that generally Alex and Monica are cast as similar ages; in fact, Alex is normally being cast as the older of the two rather than as the younger as was the case here, which I can see would work better.
Despite this reservation, Tracie gave a solid performance as Monica. However, as the play was set in the US (though there is no reason why it could not have been adjusted to have been set in the UK), I would have preferred to hear her with an American accent like the rest of the cast as the English one seemed anomalous.
The rest of the cast worked well as a supporting ensemble and although I haven’t the space to detail each performance, I will mention James Bourner (who played Leo Gibbs) as he did boost the energy level when he appeared on stage. Sadly, however, pace and passion were generally lacking, maybe due to first night nerves, which undermined the tension and excitement of the denouement. One small point; it was surprising to see a detective with an untucked shirt!
The action was quite static at times and I would like to have seen more movement and better use of the large stage. When 3 or more actors were on their feet, distracting straight lines quickly developed and this trap can easily be avoided. Entrances, particularly from stage left, were often clunky and unnatural and could have flowed into the action better.
The sets were as ever very good, always a strong point for the group and I liked the backdrops and the use of the projector. The ghostly figure of Monica was overplayed and ultimately detracted from some of those scenes. The programme was as good and interesting as I have come to expect from Wimborne Drama, though I am sure a picture noted as Robert Preston was in fact of Patrick Macnee!
The audience clearly loved it and I picked up numerous positive reactions. It was an enjoyable evening. I wish the cast good luck and full houses for the rest of the run which finishes on Saturday 21 October.