Live play, in theater, with camera: Schenectady’s Classic Theater Guild stages ‘Clue,’ offers online

Actors perform on the set during the filming of “Clue” at Congregation Beth Israel in Schenectady. Inset: Kevin O'Toole, left, as Wadsworth and director Michael Silvia. (Courtesy Classic Theater Guild)

Actors perform on the set during the filming of “Clue” at Congregation Beth Israel in Schenectady. Inset: Kevin O'Toole, left, as Wadsworth and director Michael Silvia. (Courtesy Classic Theater Guild)

Kevin O’Toole always enjoys hearing laughter from the audience, especially when it’s his character eliciting the positive reaction.

As the butler, Wadsworth, in the Classic Theater Guild production of “Clue,” O’Toole will very likely be drawing laughs from the audience, but he won’t be able to hear them. The production was done live at the Congregation Beth Israel in Schenectady, but was filmed and will be available online.

There will be four performances available beginning tonight at 7:30 and continuing Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. before finishing up with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Price per air date and computer screen is $19.95.

“Obviously, doing a comedy without an audience is difficult,” said O’Toole, a Saratoga Springs native and a 2009 graduate of Northwestern University, where he majored in film. “They’re all virtual, watching at home on their screens. At the same time what’s nice about this is that we all have family and friends who don’t live in the Capital Region and haven’t been able to see many of our shows. Now we can just send them a link, and for $20 they can watch from anywhere in the world.”

This production of “Clue” is the non-musical stage version based on the 1985 movie of the same name and the Hasbro board game created in 1949.

“Anyone who’s a fan of the 1985 movie, which turned into a bit of a cult classic, will be happy to hear that this is a pretty faithful reproduction of that movie,” said O’Toole. “It’s a quirky, zany comedy with all the same characters from the movie.”

Lovers of the movie will remember Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock and Miss Scarlet among the cast of characters, but if you’re only a fan of the board game, you might be wondering just who Wadsworth is.

“Wadsworth is probably the key character because he’s the one who ties everything together,” said O’Toole. “He’s the only main character in the show who is not in the board game, and he is the quintessential, up-tight British butler. But because this is a murder-mystery, Wadsworth has another side to him. He may be a little more than what he appears.”

As is O’Toole. He looks more like a leading man than a character actor, but since returning to the Capital Region a couple of years ago, his two biggest roles were as Igor in “Young Frankenstein” at Home Made Theater, and as Uncle Fester in the Schenectady Light Opera Company of “The Addams Family.”

“I like to think I’m a fun-loving guy, so playing an up-tight British butler is a bit of a stretch,” said O’Toole. “I’m not British and I had never played anyone British before so that took some work, and he has a sarcastic side that comes out more and more as the show goes on. I don’t think I’m a sarcastic guy, but playing that kind of witty character was a lot of fun to explore. I’ve had a lot of fun playing those character-type characters. I enjoy it very much.”

Cast members

Included in the cast with O’Toole are George Filieau as Professor Plum, John Quinan as Colonel Mustard, Leslie Eliashuk as Mrs. Peacock, Christine Vermilyea as Miss Scarlet, Janice Walz as Mrs. White, Russell Roberts as Mr. Green and Jason Cromie as Mr. Boddy. Julianna Kopa, Rebecca Gardner and Kendra Roberts round out the cast and also worked backstage behind the curtain. Michael Silvia, who has performed with the Classic Theater Guild and also at Schenectady Civic Theater and Albany Civic Theater in the past, is the director.

“We were hoping to do something in front of a live audience, maybe with 50 percent capacity, but that just wasn’t going to happen,” said Silvia, who grew up just south of Boston and now works at SUNY-Schenectady and lives in Scotia.

“We had to keep adapting. We really wanted to live stream, but we ended up having to do a recording so we filmed three different performances and we’re going to end up using two of them.”

The actors were wearing masks throughout most of the performance, and many other steps were taken in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We rehearsed outside in the temple’s parking lot, and we also used some of the cast members as stage hands just to cut down on the number of people backstage,” said Silvia. “I know some groups are doing Zoom readings and short plays, but we just wanted to do a fully staged play, so I think what we’re doing is pretty unique.

“I ended up using three cameras and did most of it myself, so it’s not a perfect broadcast,” added Silvia, who went to Umass-Amherst for forensic science and got his masters at Virginia Commonwealth University. “But just having one camera in the middle of the theater wouldn’t have worked. This way it really adds to the live feeling.”

O’Toole is happy to have the project done. He was in the cast of “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” at SLOC earlier this year in March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We did our preview show on Friday the 13th and that was the weekend that it all went down,” said O’Toole, who after graduating from Northwestern, worked on the “Late Show with David Lettermen” and FOX Sports in New York City before heading back to the area. “The rest of the run got canceled. We all called our friends and family that Friday and told them they had to come see the preview because that was their only chance to see it.”

O’Toole jumped at the chance to perform again, although this time it was also a fluid situation.

“We realized it was all pretty flexible,” said O’Toole, who also worked at WTEN-10 and is currently a digital producer for the Albany Times-Union. “We were told that at any moment this whole thing could be shut down, depending on what happens with the governor or the the health department. We were following all the guidelines, and made sure we did everything the temple wanted us to do. We tried to be very careful, but we knew there was a possibility it would never happen.”

While there is a musical adaptation of “Clue,” the staged, non-musical version (“Clue: On Stage” is the official name) was written by Sandy Rustin and is based on a story by Jonathan Lynn. For more information about the Classic Theater Guild production check out the group’s Facebook page or call (518) 387-9150.

Categories: Entertainment, Schenectady County

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