Post Mortem: EAT CAKE

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Henri (Calvin Johnson) hiding under Madame la Comtesse’s skirt.

Welcome to Post Mortem!  This is where Master Mystery Productions looks back on the performance of its most recent show.

Spring has sprung in Death Valley, and wildflowers in every shade of the rainbow cloak the national park. A setting as lively and colorful as our muse for our latest murder mystery set in the classical grandeur of Marta Becket’s Amargosa Opera House. Befitting our tradition for ambitious spring shows, we set out to take our guests on a whirlwind wacky adventure through the halls of the Palace of Versailles. And there’s one thing to do when you get to Versailles in 1789. Eat Cake.

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Photo by Kurt Moses Photography.

With Marta’s beautiful murals, opera house, and spirit to guide us, we crafted a confection of a murder mystery comedy where Versailles is besieged by many murderous motives working at cross purposes. You have scheming heirs hoping to claim a fortune, dangerous revolutionaries hoping to change the world, and, lurking beneath it all, a motive so startling that we may call it our first ever scheming super-villain monologuing about a master plan. All of it wrapped in miles of hip pads, dresses, waistcoats, and wigs. Such a decadent indulgence.

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Brigitte the Bawd (Heather McGaha) is not amused by the Countess’ antics. Photo by Kurt Moses Photography.

The apartments of the Marquis Mauvais are making preparations for the most legendary soiree in all of France to honor Madame la Comtesse (The Countess of Nowhere in Particular) and her long-continued presence at court. But the Marquis brings an unexpected fly to the ointment when he decides to “Pygmalionize” a Parisian bawd named Brigitte. Little does he know that Brigitte is sneaking her rebel conspirators into the palace to capture Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. When the bodies start to fall, confusion and chaos sets in. Are these all part of the same plan? Has this derailed the public schemes of some of our characters? With revolutionaries hiding under ladies’ skirts, gossips dying from poisoned cake, degenerates posing as dukes, the world’s deadliest game of Pass the Champagne, and a volley of sarcasm, backhanded compliments, and smiling insults, Eat Cake was raucous, rambunctious riot of Rococo craziness for our audiences to enjoy.

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Brigitte and Lady Chantilly (Rebecca Witherell) trade insults while the Marquis Mauvais (Jonathan Blair) looks on.
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“It’s a pleasure for you to meet me, mademoiselle.” Madame la Comtesse (Monica Lorenz) introduces herself while her maid Marianne (Nicole Johnson) holds her fan. Say now…what’s under her skirt? Photo by Kurt Moses Photography.
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Madame du Pommade (Devanne Fredette) is very curious about goings on the “Maison Mauvais.”
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Henri and Marianne meet Marie Antoinette (Tiffany Cheney). Photo by Kurt Moses Photography.

Audiences were delighted by the delicious details from the costuming to the rapier wit of our cunning characters. Laughs abounded at the bizarre, yet historically accurate world we thrust them into (for instance, women bathed fully clothed to protect their modesty…if they bathed at all in Versailles). We pulled some of the best and most consistent audience numbers for the Amargosa Opera House 2018-19 season. From the opening refrains of “Frere Jacques” hummed and then sung by our ghostly ladies behind the curtain at the start of the show to the final time its hummed by Marie Antoinette in her toy town farm, our wacky, flamboyant Marquis, fatally and eternally-delighted Countess, hassled Lady Chantilly, sexy and sassy Brigitte, malicious Marianne, rebel-hearted Henri, nosy Madame du Pommade, and happy and carefree Marie Antoinette brought smiles to everyone. Especially the cast and crew. We bonded over this show and became a family, even if our characters were at each other’s throats.

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Diamond Mask Winner Leslie Blake filling in for the role of Marie Antoinette on closing night.

But even in the happiest of shows, sometimes a crisis happens. Five days before closing night, our actress playing Marie Antoinette had a family emergency. Thanks to the tight-knit spirit of community our little theatre family has, we were able to substitute the actresses to finish the run. Diamond Mask winning-actress (Kim Hyatt, What Happens at Sundown) Leslie Blake took on the role of the Queen Consort of France in a stunning turnaround that will go down in theatre history. For her spirit of fellowship and commitment to the show at that difficult time, Leslie received a special commendation from Master Mystery Productions. Bravo!

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Brigitte tries desperately to distract Lady Chantilly from going to the bathroom where her compatriot is hidden.
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Uh oh. Henri has been discovered. Can he pass for a duke? The Duke…of Revolutia, maybe?
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What sinister plans are these nefarious blue bloods concocting?
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Marie Antoinette (Leslie Blake) finds a…surprise.

More honors were to be had at closing night of Eat Cake. First up was our oldest award: The Skeleton Key Award for Service Above and Beyond. Each designed to uniquely reflect the show it was made for, the Skeleton Key Award is a symbol of an individual putting their heart and soul into a Master Mystery Production, going above and beyond their assigned jobs in the show to make it the best it can be. They are inspirations to us in the company, and they remain celebrated in our programs and on our website for years to come. Eat Cake‘s winner proved to be a unanimous decision by the committee as this person has been the most supportive of the entire play, working so many jobs and being a source of light and joy to all of us. Congratulations to Janis Kunz on your Skeleton Key Award for Eat Cake!

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Award for Eat Cake
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Congratulations Janis!

Following the Skeleton Key, we presented the coveted Diamond Mask Awards for Excellence in Performance. Voted by audiences, guests select their nominees for the award based on the performances they liked best. The actors with the most votes win. On their first win, they receive a special diamond pin and subsequent wins will receive a diamond chain to create a cascade of diamonds. Due to the caliber of the performances in Eat Cake, we allowed four actors to receive the elusive prize. Congratulations to Rebecca Witherell, Calvin Johnson, Monica Lorenz, and Heather McGaha for your Diamond Mask-winning performances!

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A star as bright as a diamond herself, Rebecca Witherell delivered another masterful, magical, and some might say maniacal performance as the crafty Lady Chantilly. Her commitment, humor, and high-octane energy mixed with her passion and love for the stage created an unforgettable performance worthy of the grandeur of Amargosa Opera House. This is Rebecca’s second Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance after her legendary debut as Victoria Camden in What Happens in Sundown. Bravo, Rebecca!
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Surprised and delighted, Calvin Johnson finally claimed his first Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance for his fiery and bombastic portrayal of Henri, a hot-headed, rebel-hearted revolutionary. Last seen at MMP as Geoffrey Challenger in 2015’s Goodbye Hollywood series and last heard as the voice of Dr. Fredericks in Ex Luna, it’s been many long seasons before Calvin returned to MMP for Eat Cake. Calvin’s passion and zeal for performing is keenly felt every second he is onstage, and he always leaves a powerful impression in the minds of his audiences. He truly left his mark on the Amargosa Opera House stage in this intense role and showed he is at his best when the curtain goes up before an audience. We will never forget his impassioned cries of “Vive le revolution!,” knife aimed skyward just before blackout. Congratulations Calvin! The Diamond Mask Award is finally yours. We are beyond proud of you. You’ve earned it!
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With a hilarious and high-spirited performance, Monica Lorenz’s portrayal of Madame la Comtesse is undoubtedly the best acting she has done yet. And she keeps getting better. Full of mischief and malicious pleasure, her bubbly, right, and blissfully unconcerned Countess always cracked us up when she “made a funny.” Nuanced, detailed, and full of joie de vivre, Monica has outdone her already high standards of acting to earn her record THIRD Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance, the first performer in history to do so. She can definitely have her cake and eat it too now. Mega congratulations, Monica!
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Always a treasure, Heather McGaha has delivered a performance to rival even some of her most memorable and brilliant roles. Even a veteran like her has grown so much over her time at MMP, and her portrayal of Brigitte the Bawd showcased Heather at her best and brightest. It was the best performance of hers we have ever seen, and we couldn’t be prouder. Sassy, sexy, smart, and sinister, Heather encapsulated it all in a sharp and stunning performance. She is the only performer to win a Diamond Mask at both Amargosa Opera House shows, her first being as Donatella Violetta in Exit Prima Donna. This means she made history as the first and only performer to win multiple Diamond Mask Awards under the same client and venue. Brava, Heather!

Eat Cake will remain one of the most beloved shows in our history, a show where cast and crew truly united as a loving family under one common goal: to create great theatre. In a world where things feel chaotic and cutthroat, it was a balm to know that we had a place where the drama was left on the stage, and we were all united as a true theatrical family. Eat Cake will be treasured in our hearts for the rest of our days. We couldn’t have done it without our amazing cast and crew. Bravo!

Now let them eat cake!

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While Eat Cake might have reached the end of its run, that doesn’t mean the fun stops at Master Mystery Productions. Ever been in a life-sized board game? If CLUE came to life, how would it work? We decided to find out in our 23rd Master Mystery Production. Just be careful, because someone isn’t playing fair in…

FOUL PLAY

Auditions are Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, 2019 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Red Rock Books in Ridgecrest (206 W. Ridgecrest Blvd.). Performance dates are July 20, 27, August 3, 10, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at Red Rock Books. Everyone is welcome to audition and no theatre experience is necessary. We’re always happy to grow our family!

We can’t wait to see you there!

–Master Mystery Productions

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