Archikulture Digest
Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

The Ritz Theater • Sanford, Florida

Directed by Douglas Carey

Starring Adam Cornett, J. P. Royer, and Sue Jordan

It’s not really an “Express” if the train is frozen in a snow storm in Yugoslavia, or whatever they call that corner of Europe today. The Orient Express was the fanciest rail line in Europe, nay, the world, and went from Istanbul to Calais in a day or so. Tonight eight passengers embark for this run. That’s a lot for the middle of winter, and that is our first plot point of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Conveniently, super detective Hercules Poirot (Cornett), the famous Belgian detective, is along for the ride. He’s buddies with the rail line owner Monsieur Bouc (J. P. Royer). And while Poirot has no legal authority in Yugoslavia, he’s all they’ve get for crime control when the train is stuck in the snow and a dead body appears unexpectedly. That would be American businessman Samuel Ratchett (Troy Cox). He did complain about death threats, and now we have a perfect locked box mystery. Everyone except Poirot and Bouc has motivation, and so it’s off to the interrogations we go. Will I reveal the murderer? Of course not. That’s why you have an internet in your pocket.

The characters are well cast. Cornett as Poirot is prim and fussy, and I can’t judge his accent. After all, who goes around mocking the Belgians, except for maybe the Dutch? Ratchett gets relatively little stage time — he’s not there to show off, his role here is to die so we can have a good solid mystery. Julie Harwick plays a good Princess Dragomiroff; I liked her weird Russian accent and fussy demeanor. And another well cast role comes in the form of Hadley Williams as Greta Olson, the naïve American who finds the body.

The set is truly impressive. We start in a diner in Istanbul set in front of the curtain, then it’s on to the train station, where tickets are taken and cabins assigned, and we can ogle the full-size front projection of a classic steam engine. Inside the train, a revolving set takes us from the inner suites to the corridor in the hall. Watching the switch is encouraged to show off their technical prowess, and I am impressed. This also conveniently gets the corpse off stage without anyone having to actually drag the victim away in front of the paying customers. I’ll spare you the name of the victim, as some have neither read the book nor seen the movies.

It’s a very well done production, and perfect for a Sunday afternoon in busy Sanford. I was at a full house, and that seems to be the norm up here. This was a real crowd favorite.

Ritz Theater Sanford

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