“The Play That Goes Wrong” will make history when it opens at Altria Theater on Oct. 22. The show is the first non-musical comedy brought in for a season of Broadway in Richmond, now in its 11th year.
“As we program the Broadway in Richmond season, we consider feedback from our subscribers and patrons,” said Steve Traxler, co-founder and president of Jam Theatricals, which presents Broadway in Richmond. “Our most frequent requests are to consider plays and comedies. ‘The Play That Goes Wrong‘ fits those two criteria perfectly, as a laugh-out-loud play critics and audiences alike have raved about in London, on Broadway and across the U.S. We think audiences are going to love it.”
Matt DiCarlo, the show’s director, is excited the unconventional comedy is touring the nation. “Not that many plays tour,” he said, speaking from New York City during rehearsals. “This play merits that because it’s a play that stands on its own. It’s not geared toward any one demographic. It can be enjoyed by everybody.”
American audiences are not often exposed to a British farce “done so masterfully,” he added. “It fits the bill and has global appeal.”
DiCarlo started his time with “The Play That Goes Wrong” as stage manager for the play’s original company on Broadway. He took over as associate director before becoming director.
“I have not done a show that is able to reach people in the way this play does,” he said. “The first time I saw the play I was belly laughing. I looked around and everybody was having the exact same experience. It’s amazing to watch that continue to grow. It’s two hours of nonstop fun.”
The Tony Award-winning comedy is about the Cornley University Drama Society, which is attempting to stage a 1920s murder mystery, but everything that can go wrong does as the accident-prone actors battle against all odds to get to their final curtain call.
The show opened at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in April 2017 and closed this January, making it the Lyceum’s second-longest running show in its history. Lyceum, built in 1903, is considered Broadway’s oldest continually operating theater.
Because the show requires a great deal of physical comedy, it can be demanding for the actors.
“There is a skill to making things go wrong the right way,” DiCarlo said. “We are spending a lot of time in rehearsal making sure the play feels as grounded and as real as we can make it.”
Michael Thatcher, who plays Robert Grove, one of the show’s pivotal characters, has to make sure he is taking care of his voice before and after each show.
“Robert is bold and brazen. He’s the reason a lot of the things go wrong,” Thatcher said. “When things do start going wrong, he starts shouting more. Sometimes at the end of the show I am hoarse.”
The show has a cast of 12, or 13, if you count the Tony Award-winning set. “The characters interact with the set as much as they do with each other,” DiCarlo said, adding that the set for the tour is a duplicate of the design used on Broadway. “The set goes through a lot over the course of the evening. Some of the tricks and things we do with the set are some of the most thrilling moments in the show.”
The set becomes a playground for Robert. “He goes through some of the most difficult physical feats in the show,” Thatcher said.
The show has something for everyone, he added. “It’s for ages 7 to 95-plus. It’s got slapstick, word play, witty humor and physical comedy. People can truly escape for two hours and laugh with their family at the tragedy these actors are going through.”
The production brings joy to people through laughter, DiCarlo said. “For me, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”