“Given that we live in trying times, the play will bring much needed laugher to the audiences. The play was fun to do, being a mixture of comedy, farce, mystery and thriller all with the homage to the film noir style of the 1940s films,” said director John Ferry, who also plays pretentious director Ken in the play.
He's talking about JCAT's current production, "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940," now playing in North Miami Beach.
Ferry teamed with nine JCAT actors who provide laughs, mayhem and multiple personalities and accents to their primary characters
Set in December 1940 at an estate in Chappaqua, N.Y., philanthropist Elsa (actress Linda Drozdow) hosts a group of actors and others in musical theater who meet at her mansion to discuss the production of a new show for a backer in the industry.
However, the guests all recall a mystery slasher who committed murder when they last met. Three chorus girls were murdered by the "Stage Door Slasher." As the plot moves along, Elsa’s guests become less interested in the meeting and more intrigued about the confusion of who may be the mystery slasher among Elsa’s guests.
The comedy features plenty of physical comedy and many punchlines, especially from comedian Eddie (Lito Becerra), who is reminscent of Bob Hope in his prime, playing a cowardly character prone to pity while telling jokes.
The other characters are Elsa’s German maid Helsa (Debbie Bekefi), Irish tenor O’Reilly (Brian Goldberg), policeman Michael (Sonny Levitt), singer Nikki (Shaila Sakona), producer Marjorie (Penny Landau), composer Roger (Mark Firestone) and lyricist Bernice (Peggy Linker), who is also a loveable alcoholic.
The result of the mayhem, involving comical fights with bottle clonkings and the rapid change of scenes and identities of characters adds to the confusion.
A community theater production, Ferry and the JCAT actors relish their time rehearsing for the production in between their commitments to their day jobs.
“I love acting so much and became an attorney primarily as a means of supporting myself, but my heart and soul are in the theater,” said Sakona, who has degrees in both law and musical theater. Sakona performed in multiple musicals as a professional actor prior to her career in law.
Firestone (gynecologist), Goldberg (software architect), Landau (theater publicist) and Linker (attorney) are among the other community actors. Veteran actors Bekefi (wife of Ferry), Drozdow, Landau and Levitt have been immersed at JCAT and other community theater groups for more than 25 years.
“It is an incredible honor to have worked in so many JCAT productions over the years,” says Drozdow, a pilates instructor who was memorable as lead characters in the JCAT productions of “The Diary Of Anne Frank” and “Women’s Minyan’.
Levitt, a funeral director who has performed in community theater for over 40 years, was perfectly cast in “The Musical Comedy Murders Of 1940.” And here's why.
“I could have supplied the JCAT production with many coffins if it was needed,” laughed Levitt.
“The Musical Comedy Murders Of 1940” is being performed by JCAT now though May 19 at the Michael Ann Russell Jewish Community Center, 18900 NE 25th Ave. in North Miami Beach. Tickets range from $15-25 with performances Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or go to jcctheatre.com