Dianne O'Neill admits she felt a little sigh of relief when she saw Victor Cahn walk through the doors of Home Made Theater back in November.
Cahn, a retired Skidmore College professor, actor and playwright, was there to audition, and was selected by O'Neill to play Inspector Hubbard in Home Made's production of "Dial M for Murder," opening Friday at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park.
"I was delighted when Victor turned up for auditions," said O'Neill, who has also directed a number of other classic stories at Home Made, including "The 39 Steps," "The Man Who Came to Dinner" and "Witness for the Prosecution." "I have worked with him several times before and he has the gravitas and the lovely voice, with an excellent English accent, to play the wily inspector."
The character of Inspector Hubbard was made famous by the British character actor John Williams, who played the role on the Broadway stage, for which he won a Tony, as well as the Alfred Hitchcock movie version in 1954. Cahn loves the Hollywood film and has also enjoyed a number of stage productions.
"For me, pompous and British go together," joked Cahn, referring to the somewhat stodgy and stuffy Inspector Hubbard. "So I do a British accent pretty well and pompous seems to come naturally to me. But I often play the old British villain, and this time I get to be the guy who brings out the truth."
"Dial M for Murder" officially premiered as a play on British television in 1952 before heading to London's West End later that year and then Broadway in 1953. It was written by Frederick Knott, who adapted his play for Hitchcock's 1954 screen version starring Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, Bob Cummings and Williams.
"It's a beautiful script, I've seen a few stage productions, and the movie, with all of Hitchcock's touches, is absolutely superb," said Cahn. "I like to watch it over and over again if it's on TV, and if I can see a stage production somewhere I'll go watch it. It's just beautifully put together."
The story centers on a socialite housewife whose secret extramarital affair is uncovered after her husband, a former professional tennis player, discovers her love letters. He hatches a scheme to have her murdered. In the Home Made production, Signe Naranjo plays Margot, the wife; Max Beyer is Tony, her husband; and John Emery is Max, her lover,
"It's a very clever script and the characters are such contrasts," said O'Neill, who also directed Cahn in "And Then There Were None" and "Witness for the Prosecution." "The sociopathic husband Tony, no morals, only interested in what serves his needs; his sweet, naive wife; and her stolid, devoted boyfriend. There's also the sleazy college acquaintance and then there is the dogged chief inspector. All the actors were great choices for each role, so I feel very lucky to have this cast."
While this is his first time playing Inspector Hubbard, Cahn was in a Curtain Call Theatre production of "Dial M for Murder" 20 years ago in which he played the husband,
"The plot is ingenious, and I've read that Knott worked on the script for a year and a half," said Cahn, who had his own play, "Fit to Kill," performed at Curtain Call and off-Broadway in New York. "There a few laughs, most of them courtesy of Inspector Hubbard, and while the play is a lot like the movie, Hitchcock tightened up things a bit. And he loved John Williams. He was Hitchcock's favorite actor. You might think it was Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart, but Hitchcock loved Williams' economy of action. He used him quite a bit in supporting roles."
Like Cahn, Beyer was in Home Made's production of "And Then There Were None," while Naranjo, Emery, Kenneth Killian and Scott Roberts are all newcomers to the theater troupe.
Naranjo is a 2019 South Glens Falls High graduate who won a Jimmy Award last year from Proctors for her performance as Gertrude McFuzz in "Seussical the Musical."
'Dial M for Murder'
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Feb. 23; performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28-$26
MORE INFO: (518) 587-4427 or www.homemadetheater.org