Playhouse musical comedy is nonsense for the thinking person


David Hilder has had a packed schedule since his last stint at Pioneer Playhouse, with last summer's "You Can't Take It With You." He's been doing a lot of writing, he says, and he was assistant director for the Tony Award-nominated "Frozen."

"That project was the bulk of 2004 for me," says Hilder.

And he is enjoying the production he currently is directing at Pioneer Playhouse, "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940."

"It has comedy, both high and low," explains Hilder, who is based out of New York. "The first thing I responded to was the immense humor of the play."

Humor also provides one of the production's inherent challenges, he notes. Much of its setup is "practically geometry" and Hilder says he must make sure the story makes sense without sacrificing the humor of the show.

"The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940," set in Chappaqua, N.Y., follows a group of people assembled for a backers' audition for a new musical that hopefully will go to Broadway, Hilder says. The team working on the new show also was around for a previous show at which three chorus girls were murdered.


"Sure enough, soon corpses are dropping like flies," Hilder notes. "And no one is who they seem to be.

"And what would a play set in 1940 be without Nazis?" he adds of a thread that runs through the show.

The play is an ensemble piece, with the roles similarly sized. Hilder says directing an ensemble piece is easier than shows with lead and supporting casts.

"(In an ensemble piece), everyone in the cast has an equal investment in the proceedings," he explains. "The ball gets tossed around, and everybody gets a lot of moments to shine.

"No one is stuck carrying a spear. And an ensemble piece automatically fosters a kind of excitement ... both with fellow cast members and the audience."

Hilder says audiences should like the show because "it is so silly and very scary at the same time."

"It's a fun night of theater," he adds. "There is a wealth of comedy people can just respond to. It's a wonderfully, twisty, fun evening ..."

He likes spending a few weeks in the Bluegrass State, Hilder says.

"I'm delighted to be back, and working with a very talented cast," he notes. "I'm glad the playhouse is continuing after the sad demise of The Colonel. I'm glad people are coming to see shows after he's not here physically."

Once he winds his way through "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940," Hilder treks back to New York, where he is writing a musical with a collaborator.

"And I'll probably be assisting again on a play by the same woman who wrote 'Frozen,' titled 'Last Easter.'"

If you want to go

"The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" runs at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, July 27-Aug. 7 at Pioneer Playhouse. Dinner and theater: 7:30 p.m., $25. Theater only: 8:30 p.m., $13. Tickets: (859) 236-2747

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