Offed Stage Left
Working in the theater can often bring happiness or hardship to the actors as she one vies for the lead position or at least a role that might lead them to higher plains. Sometimes the understudy does not get to replace the lead unless the lead is ill or cannot perform. Isobel Spice has finally landed her first regional theater job, playing a supporting role in the musical Sousacal based on the life of John Philip Sousa. Having to study the part of the lead actress puts extra pressure on her as The Life and Times of John Philip Sousa has never quite been portrayed in this manner. As the lead actress Arden seems to annoy, act uppity and totally wrong in many ways for the part manages to lead someone to cause the masking in the curtains to fall, place laxative in the coffee of some of the cast member sending them you know where for a long time letting the cast know that someone wants to sabotage the show before opening night. When the show finally does open and several mishaps seem to have been corrected a last minute prank might cost them opening night as some tampered with the musical score of the orchestra and all of the parts seemed out of place, things added and others omitted as the musical director had to correct it or they could not open. As the dress rehearsal as a result of the musical scores was almost disastrous and the show is about to open something happens during one scene that would terrify most and cause them to want to leave the cast. Who wanted to kill the leading lady who is playing the wife of Sousa, Jessie? Who wanted to make it look like she just fainted and fell over? Minor backstage accidents and the death of Arden brings to police to the stage and Isobel as their prime suspect.
The members of this cast are not all a tightly knit family as Isabel is dating the musical director Hugh who replaced someone else. Felicity the woman in charge seems to have her own agenda and it’s difficult to tell whether she is doing something to make sure the show fails. From the stage manager or director, to the musical director to Delphi, Isobel’s friend who surprises her on opening night, this cast of actors will stupefy, stump and create many unanswered questions for readers as the author takes us behind stage and we learn the personalities of this cast, we meet the two detectives on the case and we wonder who might be the killer as another body is about to fall.
With the score being tampered and the book or storyline not really great and feuds among the cast this show seemed doomed from the start. As Chris seemed distracted at times and Jethro’s book was thrown out and the original score by Geoff Brown thrown out just what was left was not much. When the Stage Manager’s book was tampered with and taken and a note was placed for Isobel to read the pranks were many and the suspects piling up but who killed Arden Claire and who killed the costume designer Thomas who was feverishly working to make all of the repairs with the cast changes.
Detective Dillon was the lead detective on this case and his prime suspect is Isobel. But, she is persistent, tenacious and challenged him to try and solve the case before she did. With her deductive reasoning, her perceptive personality and her flair for taking chances she not only wanted to solve the case, find out who was behind the numerous pranks and the death of two of the members of the Livingstone Company, but just why Roman Fried a reporter was interested in this play and got tickets for one complete week. The Donnelly Group was supposed to invest but something deterred them. Felicity is in charge and Kelly the stage manager who seemed connected but someone was hiding a secret about the funding and somehow the money was coming from not the sources they thought but being funneled from other areas by someone who was committing fraud.
Relationships are revealed among cast members and jealousies come to light as several women are fighting over Geoff who is using them for his own purposes. Who created the problem with the masking? Who added the laxative and who tampered with the parts who won’t believe it until you hear Isobel and hopefully she will solve the case before another body falls.
When Chris has to play Sousa and has apparently disappeared or someone claims he is sick Sunil the understudy has to take over but in reality he has no idea he was next in line. With a book that was not very good and scores of music that were constantly being changed will this play ever go on or is it better to quit while they are ahead?
The ending has several surprise twists and turns as the author creates a situation that will not only astound readers but Isobel too. Who is the mastermind behind the pranks? Who is the mastermind behind the murders and why you just won’t believe it? Can Isobel stop what someone has started before someone else pays the ultimate price? Find out when you read OFFed Stage Left. Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine