Call it a rags-to-riches story. “The Play that Goes Wrong,” which started in London with only four paying audience members, has gone a lot of “right” places.
This unmissable 1920s murder-mystery style comedy kicks off Broadway Austin’s 2018-2019 season October 23 at Bass Concert Hall. Now known as known as Broadway’s funniest and longest-running play, the show introduces the Cornley University Drama Society, a group attempting to put on a murder mystery. But—just as the title says —everything starts to go wrong, with the characters facing all manner of odds until the curtain goes down.
Described as “Hilarious! Non-stop pandemonium” by Entertainment Weekly, Broadway originally planned to close the show by August of this year, but because of popular demand it’s been extended through January 2019, with a stop in Austin.
The winner of a Tony Award for Best Set Design, Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Award for Best Play, and the Theater Fans Choice Award for Best Play, the play is currently playing in a total of six continents.
We spoke with native Texan, Peyton Crim, who plays Robert in the show.
What makes this different and funnier than plays you’ve starred in?
Everyone knows that for the last several decades Broadway hasn’t had a single comedy treading upon the boards. It’s just been witches and wizards singing at each other, stuffy American History poems, and some show about a boy named Evan who broke his arm. It wasn’t until “The Play That Goes Wrong” came along that Broadway learned to smile again and I think that’s been a large part of its success. The three gentlemen who wrote the piece, Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer, spent several years refining the jokes on the road in much the same way a stand up would workshop a set. Because of this, the joke-to-moment ratio is higher than any show I’ve been a part of, and the audience responds in kind.
Can you tell us a little bit about the mystery element of the play?
The Cornley University Drama Society is debuting their first touring production “The Murder at Haversham Manor. They are all very excited to put on a show for American audiences and very much hope everything goes smoothly…
What is the funniest scene of the play?
I feel comfortable telling you that any scene featuring myself is the funniest scene. Myself or any of my fellow actors. Or do I mean the entire play is the funniest bit? Yes, that.
Tell us about your character, Robert.
Robert is the greatest actor of the 21st, 20th, and probably the last ten years of the 19th centuries (in his mind). He has been struggling to make his big break in the theatrical world and Cornley has finally offered the chance for his genius to shine through. Whether or not his castmates will recognize that genius remains to be seen. I can relate.
How did growing up in Dallas shape your passion for theater?
Some of my earliest memories are of attending similar touring shows at the Dallas Summer Musicals in Fair Park. That continued through High School where my mother and I had an annual spring break tradition of going to the SXSW Film Festival (before it ballooned into the globally recognized behemoth it is now). If some kid out there with a desperate need for attention comes to our show and finds his new passion, I’ve done my work.
What’s it like to be back in Texas for the show?
It is a true thrill and a bit of a homecoming; I’ve yet to perform anywhere in the state as I did not pursue professional gigs until I had left for college. I hope that our little bit of mischievous theatre helps spur new audiences to seek out other shows so that the arts community can continue to grow.
One last question. Why should our Austin readers come and see the show?
Austin is the nation’s capital for takin’ a load off and having a great time; this show is the perfect complement to that. For two hours audiences will laugh more than they have in any other theatre, I’ll wager my pair of Justins on it.
The Play That Goes Wrong runs at Bass Concert Hall October 23-28. Click here to buy tickets now.
Cover photo Jeremy Daniel