If you go
› What: “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”
› Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.
› When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 26-27, Feb. 2-3 and 8-9; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 28, Feb. 4 and 11; and 7 p.m. Thursdays, Feb. 1 and 8
› Admission: $11-$30
› For more information: 423-267-8534
› Thursday, Feb. 1: Live captioning for the hearing impaired
› Friday, Feb. 2: Talkback with director and actors following performance
A young, unknown British writer named Agatha Christie, acting on a dare from her sister, published her first novel, "The Mysterious Affair at Styles," in 1920 — and the rest, as they say, is history.
While the novel launched Christie's career as one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, the story wasn't adapted for the stage until 2012. So the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's upcoming production of the stage adaptation could be called either an old or new play. But either way, it will keep you guessing until the end.
The CTC opens Agatha Christie's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" on Friday night, Jan. 26, with performances continuing through Sunday, Feb. 11.
The story is set in Essex, England, during summer 1917. Back from war, Capt. Arthur Hastings is convalescing at Styles Court. When the lady of the house suspiciously dies, the tranquil manor turns treacherous. The cause of her death is deemed murder and the killer could be anyone: her unappealing new husband, her ne'er-do-well son, the blunt female groundskeeper, even the local toxicologist.
Enter Hercule Poirot, a Belgian refugee making his debut as Christie's detective extraordinaire, who applies his famous brain to the seemingly unsolvable mystery.
Featured in the pivotal role of Detective Poirot is Patrick Brady, making his third appearance on the CTC stage. He has also been cast in productions by Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga and the Dalton Little Theatre in Dalton, Ga.
He lived in New York City for more than 30 years where he worked as a freelance musician. He was musical director/conductor/vocal arranger for the Broadway and film versions of "The Producers" (on screen, he can be seen conducting the infamous "Springtime for Hitler" sequence). Other Broadway credits include "The Will Rogers Follies," "Crazy For You," "Nick & Nora," "King David," "Triumph of Love," "Fosse" and "Young Frankenstein."
As a composer, Brady wrote the transition music for "Fosse" (1999 Tony Award for Best Musical) and also provided the score for off-Broadway's "Pete 'N' Keely." Four of the many original cast albums he has conducted and/or played on have won Grammy Awards.
Steve Ray, theater chairman in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Department of Performing Arts, is guest director for this production.
"This play, because it's based on an Agatha Christie mystery novel, is quite entertaining," Ray says in a CTC news release.
"The audience will enjoy watching Poirot put the pieces of the puzzle together to solve the murder mystery. The design elements will also be very appealing to the audience — especially if they are fans of British period shows like 'Downton Abbey.' The furniture and props look like a British country manor in 1917. The costumes are beautiful and detailed," says the director.
Ray states that live theater, when done well, can be far more compelling than film or television because the actors are right in front of their audience. He compares it to the difference between listening to a recording of a favorite artist and going to see that person live.
"The level of talent we have in this show is impressive. Several actors have MFAs in acting and training in New York and Los Angeles. Patrick Brady, who plays Hercule Poirot, has worked as a musical director on Broadway and in London for over 30 years. Evans Jarnefeldt, our Hastings, teaches theater at Chattanooga State and has acted in regional theaters. Others are regulars on the CTC stage, including Mike Pala, a local theater teacher, who is doing a wonderful job as Dr. Bauerstein, a German toxicologist," Ray says.
For more information: TheatreCentre.com.
Patrick Brady: Hercule Poirot
Courtenay Cholovich: Mary Cavendish
Victoria Coady: Emily Inglethorpe
Dana Cole: Evelyn Howard
Rebekah Hildebrandt: Cynthia Murdoch
Evans Jarnefeldt: Capt. Arthur Hastings
Matt Johnson: Alfred Inglethorp
E.J. Laughter: Gardener
Mike Pala: Dr. Bauerstein
Dana Rogers: John Cavendish
Sandy Whetmore: Dorcas