In a pleasant change of pace for Broadway in Austin, “The Play That Goes Wrong” is a delightful evening of comedy instead the grandiose musical numbers that Broadway in Austin has come to be known for. “The Play That Goes Wrong” is an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery in an English manor — corpse on the chaise lounge, detective, and all.
“The Play That Goes Wrong” is an award-winning comedy created by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company, a company also known for its popular production, “Peter Pan Goes Wrong.”
This production is particularly masterful in that the show began the moment you entered the performance hall, with what looks to be the stage crew making last-minute adjustments to the set and fixing background props and interacting with the audience. The show officially started with a warm welcome from the director of the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society that set the expectations for the coming performance, comparing it to their recent successes such as “The Lion and The Wardrobe” and “James and the Peach” — two indicators of the ragtag work of a small team. What ensues — their production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” — is a chaotic showcase to comedy, mystery, and technical ingenuity.
In “The Play That Goes Wrong,” just about everything does indeed go wrong, from doors not opening to forgetting lines to cast members getting knocked unconscious; it’s a wonderful, chaotic mess filled with laughs.
From a technical standpoint, this production excels on all fronts. The costume design by Roberto Surace is on point, both fitting with the time and mood of the scene and being smart with the small details. Nigel Hook's set design is as much a cast member as anyone breathing on the stage. While any set is presumed to be done well, the visual appeal and creativity make this a real standout. Mark Bell has done a great job bringing the laughs as director, and his cast gives a truly inspired performance filled with wit, slapstick and physical comedy.
The cast is a talented team that works together like it comes naturally to them. Yaegel T. Welch’s role as the mostly murdered Jonathan was humorous for the most part, though some of the gags wore out their welcome by the fourth time. Ned Noyes did an amazing job in his role as Max, and often stole the show with his comedic antics and commitment to the role. Whether he was enthralled in a sword fight or breaking the fourth wall, his ability to bring the laughs was a real highlight of the show. The chemistry between Jamie Ann Romero and Angela Grovey is dynamic and hysterical. I couldn’t help but laugh seeing the lengths they’d go for certain situations battling over the rights to the role of Sandra. Peyton Crim and Scott Cote were a solid source of comedy throughout the show as Robert and Dennis respectively. Their comedic beats were well delivered and the audience would likely agree. They share the most stage time together, and for good reason.
I’d have to say this was a great opening to the 2018-2019 season for Broadway in Austin, and sets a high bar for the shows to come. If you missed “The Play That Goes Wrong” in Austin, you can catch it in Houston next year at the end of March. Next up for Broadway in Austin is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies,” the sequel to his classic, “The Phantom of the Opera,” running November 27 through December 2. You can grab tickets at texasperformingarts.org
Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.