There’s nothing like the thrill of live theater. Nothing like following a play as it unfolds before you, watching talented performers give their all in real time. But sometimes, part of that thrill is the high-wire anxiety that comes from wondering if that prop will stay put, if the leading lady will trip over the hem that’s come loose on her costume. We don’t go to the theater hoping for a missed cue or a technical meltdown, but with “The Play That Goes Wrong” we’re allowed to delight in mishaps and mayhem.
Opening at the Oriental Theatre December 4, the Broadway in Chicago production is a play-within-play in which a hapless amateur dramatic group attempts to put on a manor house whodunit. Originated by Britain’s Mischief Theatre, the show opened on Broadway in 2017 and began a national tour last month under the direction of New Jersey native Matt DiCarlo.
DiCarlo served as production stage manager when the show opened on Broadway, working with the English cast for the first six months, and later assisting director Mark Bell as a crew of American performers took over. “When it came time to direct the tour, the show was so present in my mind and body, that it was easy to start at the beginning and teach it from scratch,” says DiCarlo. “I also have such a clear understanding of what the backstage life of the show is like, and that knowledge is so helpful when building a new production. I had a very similar experience with the revival of ‘The Color Purple.’ After serving as the production stage manager on Broadway, I helped re-create the Broadway production for the tour.”
“The Play That Goes Wrong” rides on carefully orchestrated chaos. Getting the touring cast at ease with the fast-paced timing and physical demands of the show was a big part of DiCarlo’s job as director. “There is so much mayhem and it is all so specific,” he says. “The rehearsal process was a really solid blend of character development work, fight choreography and of course, staging. With so many intricate moving parts, we always wanted to make sure the actors felt safe and comfortable. The play itself is nonstop fun. It’s a show that kids, parents, and grandparents can all laugh at together. And we all need to laugh so much right now.”
“The Play That Goes Wrong”: Dec. 4-16, Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. For tickets ($25-$98), visit broadwayinchicago.com.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel