A Murder at the Academy

One murdered. Two more in danger. Eight people are trapped in a guest house with a lunatic looking for revenge, and everyone has something to hide. No one is safe from suspicion.

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie is the longest running play ever put to stage,  opening 1952 and only pausing to quarantine for COVID. It is a famous whodunit murder mystery, written under the request of Queen Mary of England.

Jonah Zell as Paravacini, giggling about something mischievous and mysterious. (Jack Nelson)

Now, it is being brought to Westminster under the direction of Jim Butz.

As the snow falls heavily, a woman is murdered in London, and at the same time a recently wed couple has opened a new guest house. 

As the snow banks grow and grow, stranger and stranger guests arrive to stay at the house. Eventually the snow grows to trap the residents of the house. 

But another guest arrives, a policeman, who says that someone in the house is a murderer.

Suddenly, anyone in the house could be the killer. And no one can be trusted. 

“It seems as if every scene you watch, someone else might be the murderer – you can never be sure until the end,” Elizabeth Bauer, stage manager, says.

“I love The Mousetrap,” says Mr. Butz. “The first time I saw [it]…when the murderer was revealed, I was simultaneously surprised, terrified, and strangely delighted. I was completely immersed in the play for the entire performance,” he reminisces.

The play itself has potential for greatness. But if not properly prepared, it will all go wrong.

“The success of any show is ultimately in the hands of the performers,” says Mr. Butz.

And he is determined to have these performers succeed.

“I believe in over rehearsing a play. Some claim that a show can peak too soon.  I’ve done well over a hundred shows, including around fifty professional productions and I’ve never seen evidence of an over rehearsed production. You can never be too prepared,” he says.

The partial set of The Mousetrap, being constructed as actors study their lines. (Jack Nelson)

Even after drilling the same script daily, it still holds its allure.

“Sometimes I grow tired of a show during the process.  You get to know a piece so well, so thoroughly, that it can become stale and a bit boring.  However, I don’t feel that way at all with this play…Agatha Christie has rendered varied and well drawn characters, each with a unique energy and voice.”

This excitement for the rehearsal carries to the performance as well.

“I’m very much looking forward to the performances.  Every show is incomplete without an audience,” he shares.

Production began August 31st and is now occurring almost daily as the extremely talented cast brings to life a spectacular performance.

On October 27th, 28th, and 29th, from 5:00pm-10:30pm, (5:00pm-11:00pm for the 29th), The Mousetrap will be playing right here at Westminster.