Alex Browne photo                                Pacific Showtime musical director/playwright Jonathan Wiltse (left) has trouble on his hands with investigators of the calibre of (left to right) Maxwell Smart (Robin Browne), Sherlock Holmes (Leigh Anderson), Dr. Watson (Denny O’Donovan) and Inspector Clouseau (Terry Bucknell).

Alex Browne photo Pacific Showtime musical director/playwright Jonathan Wiltse (left) has trouble on his hands with investigators of the calibre of (left to right) Maxwell Smart (Robin Browne), Sherlock Holmes (Leigh Anderson), Dr. Watson (Denny O’Donovan) and Inspector Clouseau (Terry Bucknell).

‘Private Eyes’ take over South Surrey chorus show

Musical mystery spoof plays to the strengths of Pacific Showtime members

The Pacific Showtime Men’s Chorus has created a great formula for keeping Peninsula menfolk of musical and theatrical inclination out of mischief – or, depending on your perspective, right up to their necks in it.

There’s a lot of hard work involved in blending a male voice harmony group, it’s true – but with a group of kindred spirits who love to sing, laugh it up and indulge their hammier instincts in annual musical productions, there’s no way it doesn’t end up being a lot of fun, too.

That infectious bonhomie communicates itself to audiences just as well as the group’s growing expertise as performers – which is why Pacific Showtime can no longer be counted one of White Rock and South Surrey’s best-kept secrets.

In fact, their latest foray into musical theatre – the production Private Eyes – A Musical Murder Mystery – has already sold out its two originally scheduled performances (June 3 at Ocean Park Hall and June 10 at RCL’s Crescent Branch 240) and has added an extra show (Wednesday, June 7 at 7:30, also at RCL Branch 240, 2643 128 St. in Ocean Park).

While tickets are still available for the latter, those who want to catch the show will have to move fast to get a ticket – great word-of-mouth on the group’s shows virtually guarantees it will sell out, too.

Following on the heels of the Western-themed Deadwood (2014), The Godfather – A Musical Comedy (2015) and the Beatles-inspired Ticket To Ride (2016), the group’s professional director/keyboardist/writer/arranger Jonathan Wiltse has come up with another irresistible premise – a musical whodunnit bringing together some of the most famous private investigators of stage, screen, television and mystery fiction.

Four of them: Sherlock Holmes (Leigh Anderson), Dr. Watson (Denny O’ Donovan), Maxwell Smart (Robin Browne) and Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Terry Bucknell) dropped by Peace Arch News offices this week, with Wiltse in tow (other featured sleuths include Don Dickson’s Hercule Poirot and Ron Flaterud’s Dick Tracy).

As they explained, the famed gumshoes are all invited to a mansion where a murder is committed – and during the course of the plot, further corpses start piling up. It’s a typical excuse for broad humour built on the well-known schtick of each crimefighter, they added, as well as providing cues for fun numbers like Hall and Oates’ Private Eyes and the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive, as well as Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther, a rare vocal arrangement of the Get Smart theme, and two original numbers composed specially for the show by Wiltse.

It’s another brilliant solution to creating material for a group that has grown to 18 members from last year’s 14 and seems likely to hit the target number of 20 before long.

“Jonathan’s had to revise the script four times to accommodate new members,” Anderson said.

“You’re faced with finding something for a group of 18 guys, while trying to stay away from dressing people up in drag,” Wiltse said (he’s not been entirely successful on the last point, members said, noting that one of their number was “just dying to play Miss Marple” in the current show).

“Murder mysteries have always been a fascination of mine, and ‘musical murder mystery’ is a nice alliteration,” he added.

Like all good mysteries, there is a solution identifying the perpetrator of the crimes, although the members say it will likely become less mysterious as the two-act show progresses.

“The body count keeps going up,” Bucknell chuckled. “You almost know who it is by a process of elimination!”

Wiltse says he’s thoroughly enjoyed working with the Pacific Showtime gang since he joined four years ago.

“I discovered early on that these guys are natural performers,” he said.

“They don’t all enjoy rehearsing as much as I’d like,” he added wryly, “but as soon as they get an audience in front of them, they come to life.

“There’s an honesty in the way they sing and perform that people connect with.”

As always, there’s a hope the show will draw a few men in the audience who might enjoy joining in the fun as well, members say.

The group, which rehearses Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church, 12953 20 Ave., continues to seek new members for subsequent shows in all vocal ranges (lead, tenor, baritone and bass). Singers are always invited to attend rehearsals to check out the group.

For more information on joining Pacific Showtime, call 604-536-5292 or email leighand@shaw.ca

Tickets for Private Eyes ($20) are available from O’Donovan, 604-536-7983, or online from www.pacificshowtime.com