Welcome to Post Mortem! This is where Master Mystery Productions looks back on the performance of its most recent show.
From Friday the 13th to a blood moon eclipse on the 15th, the Half-Moon Killer emerged from the shadows of 1980’s Los Angeles to stalk his prey. He seemed to have found a particular interest in the “angels”–women in the employ of Dawn Schuyler’s Closer to Heaven Nightclub–as his reign of terror seems hell-bent on eliminating them one by one. But for this one weekend, at a dramatic “Moonlight Madness” party, a battle royale will pit a remorseless serial killer against The One Who Got Away. This is the stage for our most ambitious Master Mystery Production yet with show number 29 bringing live music, theatre, and interactive mystery in a neon, new wave extravaganza we called Closer to Heaven.
We never planned the Friday the 13th or the Blood Moon timing. It was kismet, and it seemed so perfect for the performance we were going to give. Closer to Heaven became one of the most ambitious projects we ever had. We had live rock music courtesy of 80’s hair metal cover band Hot Tub Metal Machine, an amazing new venue from Moe’s Music, the painstaking period details of our set, costumes, makeup, hair, and lights, our first integration of voiceover, a VIP section, food, drinks, photos, and a rollicking party that filled the club with a neon glow. There were hundreds upon hundreds of moving parts that could slip at any moment. At times, staging a production of this magnitude became beyond stressful. But the show must go on. And the show did. And it was a phenomenal production, a huge bash that joins forces with our other spring spectaculars like Goodbye Hollywood, Bury Me in Paris, Exit Prima Donna, Eat Cake, and Mum’s the Word. We like to open our seasons in epic fashion.
For one weekend only, we transformed Moe’s Music into the Closer to Heaven nightclub on a night in June 1986 in Los Angeles, “an artery branching off the heart of Hollywood,” as Angel Archer would say. It’s Dawn Schuyler’s special “Moonlight Madness” party, which would be a cause for celebration…except she’s trying to lure the Half Moon Killer, a dangerous serial killer who has targeted her and the women in her employ, out of hiding to catch him once and for all. But is she risking the safe haven she’s built for the survivors she’s protecting? Over the night, shattering secrets and stories unfold. A Madonna impersonator and a Don Johnson devotee discuss the artificial nature of their careers and the struggles of holding onto their own sense of self…while a cancer diagnosis looms overhead like a dark omen. Young, fragile love is starting to blossom even amidst revelations of abuse and depression. And there’s a rumor of a slasher-obsessed Valley girl necking Leatherface behind the bar. Not to mention the downright evil Los Angeles investor hovering around the club with an agenda to buy out Dawn and rip their safe haven out from under their feet. Oh and let’s not leave out the strange, shadowy figure in a glow-in-the-dark mask who flits around the set with malice in that frozen, crescent moon grin. Closer to Heaven is packed with intense emotion, high drama, laughs, danger, and like, totally killer fashion.
As we warned our audiences, you had to keep your eyes peeled in the club to see what was going to happen next. Hot Tub Metal Machine performed a rocking set at intermission, and while guests mingled, browsed the records, grabbed food and drinks, and partied, our characters emerged at intervals and performed little vignettes highlighting upcoming relationships and struggles of their lives in the show. Why does Lucas play with Erin’s hair? Why did Gabriel jerk his arm away when Stella touched it? And who is that masked figure following Dawn? As the moon rose in the sky, the play continued and the answers were revealed.
The show was an intense passion project for the cast that really pushed them into new heights of artistry and creativity. But how did critics and audiences feel about our homage to the 80’s?
Audiences and reviewers more than loved it; They were inspired by our production. Our major review of the show read like pure poetry with the critic saying she felt “inspired by the show.” Audiences really loved the immersive setting, the tremendous acting, the heartfelt story, and the high quality of all the moving parts of the show. Closer to Heaven‘s run at Moe’s Music moved like clockwork; All the pieces came together into a smooth, polished masterpiece. Our work was hailed as “perfect,” “exemplary,” “moving, and “touching.” Fantastic work, MMP! We nailed yet another phenomenal show!
But even the 80’s were going to die, and no show is eternal. But we were determined to close with a celebration. Closing night is our traditional awards night. First up was The Skeleton Key Award for Service Above and Beyond, our oldest award. 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. Congratulations Heather McGaha for winning the Skeleton Key Award for Closer to Heaven!
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. Four people won the award for Closer to Heaven. Congratulations to Heather McGaha, Olivia Holm, Calvin Johnson, and Daniel Stallings for your Diamond Mask-winning performances!
Three additional honors were awarded on closing night of our show. Putting on a show–be it play, musical, concert, or a totally bitchin’ party–is seldom flawless. One can always expect complications along the way. But when times are difficult and challenges arise, some people find the strength and dedication to help us cross the finish line. We are forever grateful to these individuals. We awarded three Special Commendations to Calvin Johnson, Monica Dwyer, and Libby Mitchell as an expression of tremendous gratitude for their work on the show and willingness to step up and help in times of difficulty. They are superstars. Congratulations!
Closer to Heaven was a massive undertaking that could only have been possible because of the dedicated people working on it. Without these people, shows wouldn’t be possible, and we want to thank each and every one of them. And thank you to Moe’s Music for being a wonderful venue that allowed us to really step up and run wild with our imaginations. We can’t wait to see what new ideas we will dream up to use this wonderful space in the future. Because Closer to Heaven proved that, like, anything is like totally possible. Are there any limits to what we can accomplish at MMP? AS IF!
We have a couple new adventures and new venues in store. We’ll be doing a one day show in Mammoth Lakes for the Eastern Sierra Book Festival called EYEWITNESS on July 17, 2022. The event is totally free.
But following that, MMP’s next production will whisk you to the sidewalk cafes of Paris in 1925 for a Surreal look at the scandalous murder as two artists recreate the secret lives, loves, and loathings of a murdered heiress in…
We hope to bring this artistic creation to the Fourm Theater in Lone Pine, CA this fall. Keep an eye out for more updates! Keep on sleuthing, everyone!
–Master Mystery Productions