In Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s production of “Murder at the Prom,” audience members should be ready to participate in the show, witness some improv and, hopefully, come clad in some “bad prom attire” of their own.
That’s according to Tyler Hahn, who plays Vinnie Dimici in ECCT’s newest murder mystery play.
Attendees of “Murder at the Prom” are regarded as prom-goers rather than audience members, Hahn said. Unlike a typical high school prom, however, these attendees are trying to help solve a murder — all the while competing for the prized titles of prom king and queen.
The show, which premieres at 6:30 p.m. Friday at The Oxford and runs Fridays and Saturdays through the month, is one of many murder mystery dinner plays ECCT has put on.
What can audience members expect at “Murder at the Prom?” A show full of fun and fast-paced, “ping-pong” style comedy, Hahn said.
“I think the biggest thing is the characters are all very different, which is what makes it fun,” Hahn said. “Everybody has a very different place they’ve come from, so that’s what’s fun. I think not only can everybody in the audience relate to somebody that’s in the show, but they can also be a part of it.”
These types of productions, Hahn said, are exciting to perform and are a challenge as an actor. The show is Hahn’s first murder mystery and his first chance at interacting with the audience.
“(Audience interaction) keeps you on your toes,” he said. “It’s not just learning your lines and going on stage and blowing the audience away. It’s going onstage and keeping up with everyone else.”
The spontaneity and differences between each audience from show to show can add twists and turns the actors may not see coming, Hahn said. Because of this, they have to be prepared for anything each time they go on stage.
To prepare for that, the actors will try out new jokes with each other and pull theater workers aside to have them be audience members. Sometimes they also pull cast members out into the audience to prepare, Angela Wry said.
“We try to say ‘What will the audience say to this character?’” said Wry, who plays Margot Ralston. “We’re each other’s audience (during rehearsal).”
Each of the cast members plays a different prom attendee.
Hahn’s character, Vinnie, is emceeing the prom with his girlfriend, Bella. Another prom power couple is composed of Charles Jonathan Edward Buckley III, played by Kyle Richardson, and Margot, played by Wry. They are from a neighboring private school and what the cast referred to as “prom crashers.” Catherine Cramston, played by Nancy Huebler, is Central High’s principal and is overseeing the prom.
Among the dancing and prom cliches, a murder occurs and it’s up to the audience to help figure out the culprit.
As prom-goers, Ballard said the audience members will mimic socializing with classmates and will even have the opportunity to join the actors on stage.
“That’s the best part,” Ballard said of the audience interaction. “It really is being able to interact with your classmates from high school and mingle with the crowd.”
IF YOU GO
What: Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s “Murder at the Prom.”
When: 6:30 p.m. Fridays Jan. 11, 18 and 25 and Saturdays Jan. 12, 19 and 26.
Where: The Oxford, 1814 N Oxford Ave.
Tickets: $30, includes dinner.
Information: 715-839-8877, ecct.org.