When Kevin Cease graduated from Bagley High School in 1978, his last play was a melodrama, "Love Rides the Rails" at the all school reunion in 1979.
It's taken Cease 30 years to return to the stage at his former high school as the lead in Bagley Community Theater's "CLUE-the musical" based on the Parker Bros game for the All-School Reunion.
"I was thinking about auditioning and Marilyn (Hood) called at the same time and said, 'What do you think?' and I said 'OK,'" Cease said. "These five-year reunions are so fun because you don't just see your classmates; you see their families as well. My grandfather graduated in 1926."
It is especially important because when he recalls all the people he has seen through the years at the reunions, he is touched by the relationships that have lasted as far back as friends of his grandfather, father, sister and triplet brothers.
"CLUE, the Musical" is based on the board game, and the audience gets to solve the murder. Cease plays Mr. Boddy, the owner of the mansion and the murder victim; a pompous character, he uses the entire first act to explain the different reasons why he will be murdered. In the second act, Cease returns as Master of Ceremonies (narrator) who guides the audience with clues to the eventual killer.
At the beginning of the play, three audience members will pick one card each from three separate packs of cards - the murderer, the site and the murder weapon - and the answer will only be known the Master of Ceremonies. Cease must memorize a total of 216 "potential finalities." because he will not know which three cards will be pulled from the deck.
As Master of Ceremony, he will give the audience clues to the correct ending. It will be a challenge as audience members will vie with each other to solve the mystery as they listen to the clues and mark the tally sheets on the back of their tickets. This is definitely a show for board game enthusiasts, people who like to watch detective shows and solve the crime, as well as those who just like seeing a fun musical production.
"It's kind of cool because you are part of the whole story," Cease said. "People have asked me, 'You're really going to rig it, Kevin' No, the audience will pick the cards and they will be in plain sight the whole time. The trick is that you will see a character in a room with two potential murder weapons, and I will give a riddle as to the answer. The secret is in the listening and the deducting."
Another Bagley High School graduate and student at Bemidji State University, Sam Corser, will also appear in the play as Mr. Green. Kiki Erickson is Miss Scarlett, Karen Stish is Mrs. White, Elise Larson is Mrs. Peacock, Kip Fontaine is Professor Plum, Al Paulson is Colonel Mustard and Stacy Norman is the detective, for a total of eight actors.
The ensemble is under the able direction of Marilyn Hood, who may be remembered from teaching in Bemidji and also as an actor at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse.
Bagley Community Theater is an integral member of the Bagley community having supported the efforts to have a first class theater at the new high school. Twelve years ago, the organization raised $250,000 through their productions to equip the auditorium with theater curtains and a sound system.
"The reason why I love theater is because it allows me to do something completely different than what I do everyday, plus it makes me do something different every new show," said Cease, a funeral director with Cease Family Funeral Homes.
He also described his pleasure in the rapport between actors and audience members.
"The audience walks in there, they sit in the dark and they pretend with us that we are all going to go to another place (in our minds), and it is absolutely a miracle every single time. The audience when they are sitting there creates that magic. I think in our area we are so lucky because we have audiences who are willing to take that journey with us every time."
Show times are 8 p.m. July 1-3 and 4 p.m. July 5. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and may be purchased at Jennifer Hardware and online at email@example.com. If available, tickets will also be sold at the door the night of performance. Bagley High School is located at 1130 Main Street N. Turn right at the light and drive north for 1.5 miles.