Saturday, April 15, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: The Play That Goes Wrong TOP PICK

The Play That Goes Wrong
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Directed by Mark Bell
Mischief Theatre
at the Lyceum Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
A transfer of the Olivier Award winning comedy The Play That Goes Wrong is some of the most fun I have had in a theater this season -- or any.

The mishaps of a theater group trying to put on "The Murder at Haversham Manor" are a hoot, whether you are a theater buff or not. In the tradition of the play-within-a play like Noises Off, The Play That Goes Wrong certainly does -- or actually "The Murder at Haversham Manor" goes horribly wrong before it even starts, to the horror of its cast and to the delight of the audience.  It's a nightmare for "Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society" Director Chris Bean (Henry Shields) who valiantly works with his fellow thespians to make sure that the show must go on.

He plays Inspector Carter, arriving on the scene (designed in complicated farce detail by Nigel Hook) to investigate the murder of Charles Haversham (played by Jonathan Harris, who is played by Greg Tannahill), who has been murdered on the eve of his engagement party. He very amusingly and obviously is not all that dead through some of the action, however.

Haversham's fiance, Florence (played by Sandra Wilkinson, who is in fact played by Charlie Russell), Haversham's brother, Cecil (played by Max Bennett played by Dave Hearn), Florence's brother, Thomas (played by Robert Grove, played by Henry Lewis), the butler, Perkins (played by Dennis Tyde, played by Jonathan Sayer), and the show's stagehands, Trevor and Annie (played by Rob Falconer and Nancy Zamit), all are suspects.

If that sounds complicated, it is, but the zany characters are all explained in the program-within-the-program along with hilarious bios for the "Haversham" cast and a letter about the production from Bean.

Getting in the way of the murder-mystery production are missed sound cues, malfunctioning props, a set that collapses, missed lines of dialogue, and unconscious performers amidst the chaos. Some of the gags bring astonished gasps from the audience, which laughs out loud pretty much non-stop during the two hour play with an intermission. Director Mark Bell expertly keeps attention riveted (and diverted when necessary) and the ensemble displays keen comic timing, both with dialogue and physical comedy. A highlight is Hearn as the amateur actor who reacts with joy every time, usually mistakenly, he thinks applause is for him. It's a gag that doesn't get old no matter how many times he does it.

The production has transferred from the West End where it won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. The "whodunit" pales in comparison to the "what's-coming-next" in this zany, fun production.

The Play That Goes Wrong messes up and is every theater-maker's worst nightmare (in such a delightful way) at the Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: $30-$139:

-- God's name used in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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