Author: Becca Vacalavik

If All Goes Right, Everything Will Go Wrong

It’s opening night of “The Murder at Haversham Manor,” an Agatha Christie-inspired whodunit. Unfortunately, the cast and creative team simply aren’t ready. As they scramble to prepare right up until the last possible minute, places are called. Ready or not, the show will go on.

That’s the plot-within-the-plot of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” anyway, a gut-busting comedy being produced by CU Theatre this March.

“The big overarching story is that a group of amateur actors are trying to put on a murder mystery. Things inevitably start to go wrong, partially because the play is a little bit outside of their abilities and partially because of a lot of really bad, cascading luck,” says director Kaitlin Nabors.

“It’s a lot of fun! As the play unfolds, the mystery absolutely takes a backseat to the comedy. You just start to root for these characters, hoping they make it to the end of their show.”

The play—whose original production took the West End by storm when it premiered over a decade ago before transferring to Broadway—is perfect for both fans of physical comedy and highly-stylized detective mysteries. If those two genres seem in contrast to one another, it’s worth noting that mash-ups of the two are having a bit of a pop culture moment, thanks to recent hits like the Hulu TV show “Only Murders in the Building” and the breakaway blockbuster hit “Knives Out.”

“The Play That Goes Wrong” is also classic theater for theater lovers — If you’ve ever wanted to watch a show from backstage or in the wings, this one’s for you. Buried in its punchlines is a delightful insight into all the hard work that goes into executing a flawless production (as well as a lesson on why it’s so important everyone plays their part). Whether designer, stage manager or actor, there truly are no small parts.

It’s as true in the play as it is across disciplines in the Department of Theatre & Dance. Nabors says the set and prop pieces have created exciting challenges for design students, and the actors are hard at work mastering meticulous choreography to make the show’s comedy work. If the ensemble succeeds, each onstage mistake will land with realistic, pristine timing. Or as Nabors puts it: 

“For a play that goes wrong… everything has to go perfectly right.”

The CU Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance presents “The Play That Goes Wrong” in the Roe Green Theatre from March 8 to 17, 2024.