Nobody Suspects a Murder is melodramatic, theatrical and brilliant in equal parts. From the doddering but devoted butler to the charmingly naïve Inspector, this is a ridiculously entertaining production in which director Jonathan Bisby transforms Burdall’s Yard with a smooth and absorbing murder mystery.
Among the cast, Caitlin Ferris shines most of all as Sylvia, the unflappable future Lady Crawling. She’s a powerful presence on stage, strutting with confidence and bitterness, singing with control and genuine flair. Jamie Harradence, too, has his own abundance of flair that transcends camp as the brilliantly dramatic Luke and didn’t miss a beat so far as the audience was concerned.
One of the core parts of Nobody Suspects is, of course, the music, and it is superb. Larry Best is faultless in composing and playing live an evening’s worth of professional and pleasing music on which the entire production stands.
The same can’t quite be said for the lyrics. Lines of song often lead awkwardly onward to complete weak rhyming couplets, leaving some songs with an unpolished feel to them. Similarly, the comedy is varied in quality: though ninety percent hits, it has its share of misses, like the strained running joke of the Inspector’s name, ‘Hardon’, a disappointingly juvenile presence in a comedy which is otherwise frequently hilarious.
Despite shortcomings elsewhere, the impromptu tango in ‘Who Us?!’ and climactic ‘J’accuse!’ are delightful exhibitions of talent in writing, singing, acting and choreography. It’s here that the true strength of Nobody Suspects comes through. Though some performers stand above others, it’s when the entire cast join in musical harmony and dramatic chemistry that the production comes together as something truly impressive.
Nobody Suspects a Murder is an ambitious production, no doubt, and for what faults is has, it doesn’t fall short of those ambitions.