West Chester U. grad hits the Playhouse stage in his favorite role
What if Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python had a Broadway baby? That’s the question posed by the producers of The Play That Goes Wrong. This madcap murder/mystery/theater circus was penned by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields—members of Mischief Theatre Co., a British comedy theater founded in 2008. The production premiered in London in 2012 and was named Best New Comedy at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards (also in London).
The touring production now bursts onto The Playhouse stage, with West Chester University alum (class of 2012) Michael Thatcher in one of the leading roles. He plays Robert, an actor in the hapless production.
“Everything that can go wrong does go wrong,” says Thatcher. “While it’s a comedy for the audience, it’s an absolute tragedy for the actors. The audience is watching [them] navigate obstacle after obstacle, and often, they choose the worst possible solution and stick to it 100 percent.”
The Play That Goes Wrong introduces audiences to The Cornley University Drama Society, which is attempting to put on Opening Night of a 1920s murder mystery, The Murder at Haversham Manor. But as this play’s title suggests, it essentially evolves into Murphy’s Law of theater—an unconscious leading lady, an “undead” corpse, bumbling actors, broken props, missed cues and more. ?
Thatcher says that Robert, while one of the most physically demanding roles he’s ever tackled, is also his favorite. Without giving too much away, he says, Robert gets himself in some very precarious and dangerous situations.
“Robert thinks he’s the best actor in the company,” Thatcher says. “If something goes wrong, he feels that the audience won’t notice because his ‘brilliant acting’ will cover it. But his overzealousness often leads to some of the biggest things going wrong, and that’s a lot of fun to play.”
Thatcher also says that prepping for this role required a bit more physical effort. “For most plays, I stretch a little and do a simple vocal warmup. The Play That Goes Wrong is a different beast entirely. Again, it’s very physically demanding, but it’s also a vocal workout. I do strength training and cardio during the day, and then stretch before the show, and my vocal warmup is similar to what I do before a musical. My character rarely leaves the stage, and he’s anything but subtle. I need both my muscles and voice to be ready for a simultaneous sprint and marathon on stage.”
Robert also holds a special place in his heart because, as Thatcher notes, it’s the role he played in his 2018 Broadway debut.
While a student at West Chester, he spent some time in our fair city. “I mostly went to Wilmington to see theater,” he says. “I’ve seen several shows at Delaware Theatre Company and a few Broadway tours at The Playhouse on Rodney Square. But, I have a feeling my best Wilmington memories will happen while our tour is in town. I have a lot of family and friends coming to see us perform, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them.”
Thatcher notes that the opening in Wilmington will be a pivotal moment for him—performing on a stage where he used to be in the audience.
And what does the future hold for Thatcher’s career? After this tour ends, he says, he hopes to return to the classics. “I love performing Shakespeare, and have a few favorites I’ve yet to play. Iago and Macbeth are at the top of that list. And my ultimate dream role is Cyrano de Bergerac.”
The Play That Goes Wrong presents six shows running Thursday through Sunday, March 12-15. Tickets are available at TheGrandWilmington.org.
Ghost-Note On CCAC Stage March 20
As part of its continuing Live @ Christina music series, Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) welcomes funk/hip hop/jazz ensemble Ghost-Note for a one-night-only performance on Friday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. in its Clifford Brown Performance Space. Tickets are $20 in advance at ccacde.org or $25 at door.
Each season, CCAC has been fortunate to welcome noted artists to this series, including Corey Henry, saxophonist Grace Kelly, Alicia Olatunja, Gregory Porter, Delfeayo Marsalis, Snarky Puppy and Christian Sands.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Ghost-Note to CCAC’s stage,” says Ray Rhodes, executive director. The Live @ Christina performance series brings international artists to Wilmington in an up-close and intimate setting. “Their music is a fresh blend of funk, hip hop and world music unlike many others. Audiences of all music genres should find their sound both appealing and energizing.”
Ghost-Note is headed up by Snarky Puppy’s multi-Grammy–winning percussion duo, Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth, who describe Ghost-Note as “…an explosion of sound.” Members have performed with the likes of Prince, Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar, Marcus Miller, Toto, Justin Timberlake and others.
Formed in 2015, Ghost-Note has released two studio albums —2018’s Swagism and 2015’s Fortified—to critical acclaim and success around the globe. Both albums hit No. 1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts. The ensemble has also mounted headlining tours in the United States, Canada, and Japan and performed at international music festivals and events.
The group’s mission is pushing funk music into the future, building on the legendary musical foundations laid by James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone, but infusing it with their fresh take, adding afrobeat, hip hop, psychedelia and world folklore.
Snarky Puppy played the CCAC series in 2014, but this is Ghost-Note’s first appearance on CCAC’s intimate stage.
This engagement of Ghost-Note at CCAC is made possible through the Jazz Touring Network program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.