Diamond BarHigh School

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'Musical Comedy Murders of 1940' Opens

Story By Richard Irwin, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Who dunnit? Who cares as long as the actors and audience have fun with Diamond Bar High's fall production of "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940."

The performing arts department seems to thrive on period pieces. Last spring, they offered a memorable "Fiddler on the Roof."

Now the Brahmas are having a good time with this murder mystery by John Bishop. Directed by Peter Bland, the play takes place in a New York mansion circa December of 1940.

Kudos to the set director for offering us the classy library that serves as the backdrop for the entire play. Secret doorways lead to hidden passages that give the actor multiple access points.

In the opening scene, the maid is killed by a masked figure, setting the comedy into motion. Soon, we're introduced to a cast of colorful characters called together to audition a new play.

Senior Matthew Tanaka returns to the stage to play two different roles on alternating night. The 17-year-old seems to have a rollicking good time portraying Eddie McCuen, an out of work comedian.

Directly based on Bob Hope, Eddie pulls the storylines together. Along the way, the affable comic falls in love with the chorus girl but struggles to talk to her.

"On alternate nights, I play Patrick O'Reilly an Irish tenor," Matthew said with a smile. "But I like playing Eddie because he's flashy and happy, while Patrick is suspicious and serious."

Audiences may remember him from other productions, including "Leading Ladies," "Proposals" and "Fiddler On the Roof."

"After I graduate, I'd like to study acting at Columbia College in Chicago," Matthew said.

His counterpart is the irrepressible Ryan Gatus, who shares the two roles on opposite nights. When we last saw Ryan, he shared the lead role of Tevye in "Fiddler."

Before that, he dressed as a young woman for last fall's production of "Leading Ladies." From young woman to Irish tenor, Ryan continues to hone his acting skills.

"I love acting, especially comedy," said Ryan in a another interview. He plans to study acting after graduation.

It's a bit disconcerting when Ryan begins talking with an Irish lilt. But the senior thespian does a pretty good job with the accent. Others attempt English and German accents that don't always ring true.

Still, the actors and actresses hit their marks and keep the play moving along. Timing is everything in comedy, a requirement not lost in this production.

Rachel McCown plays the "chorus girl" who's actually with Naval Intelligence. Later, we learn she's on a secret mission to find German saboteurs.

The play runs 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26, 27 and Nov. 2, 3. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children. For tickets or information, call 909-594-1405 ext. 33276.

Students rehearse for "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" in the theater at Diamond Bar High on Oct. 25. (SGVT Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda)