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'Agatha Christie's The BBC Murders' to open at Capitol Theatre

In the 1930s and '40s, Agatha Christie wrote four short radio plays — Butter in a Lordly Dish, Three Blind Mice, Personal Call and Yellow Iris (which features the famous Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot) — that were aired only once by the BBC. Now these plays have been rediscovered and turned into a stage show by Ruth Eckerd Hall to launch its new mission, under CEO Zev Buffman, to become a producer of works that tour to other theaters and performing arts centers.

Agatha Christie's The BBC Murders is the brainchild of Buffman with David Ossman and Judith Walcutt, the husband-wife team who adapted the radio plays for the stage. Ossman is one of the four founding members of Firesign Theatre, whose subversive comedy — in classic albums such as Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers — was a hallmark of the 1960s and '70s counterculture. Phil Proctor, another Firesign founder, plays Poirot and other roles.

The 16-actor cast also includes Melinda Peterson, who plays Christie as the narrator; Gary Sandy, best known as Andy Travis in the hit sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati; and Amy Walker, an Internet sensation for her YouTube video in which she demonstrates 21 accents in one fast-paced take. The sound design includes such effects as an archaeological dig in Iraq and a train station in London. Broadway composer Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) wrote music for a cabaret scene.

The show opens Tuesday (sold out) and runs through Nov. 18 at the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Shows are 8 p.m. Tuesday, 2 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. There is a preview at 8 p.m. Monday (though tickets are full price). $40, $55. (727) 791-7400. At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, a free 1940s British street fair will take place before the show with classic cars, bagpipers and a swing band.

John Fleming, Times performing arts critic

Sunday in Latitudes

It's no mystery how the short radio plays became stage productions.

'Agatha Christie's The BBC Murders' to open at Capitol Theatre 11/07/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 3:30am]
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