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Best Murder Mystery Plays

  • 1.  Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 06-29-2020 10:54

    I have a question for those of you who are deeply familiar with the Murder Mystery genre.  Due to the shutdown, we had to cancel our production of The Mousetrap.  Now I am turning my eye toward the upcoming season, with all of its uncertainty, and trying to make a plan.  The cast was enjoying The Mousetrap, but the more we rehearsed the more glaring the weaknesses of the play stood out to me.  There are a couple of serious holes in the plot and the ending feels painfully awkward and abrupt.  I might remount the production this season with the addition of a few new cast members, or I might choose another Murder Mystery altogether.  My questions for those of you who are familiar with the genre are:
    A. What are your thoughts on The Mousetrap?  What was your experience with the production?
    B. Are there other plays in this genre you would recommend instead? (preferably with larger casts)

    Jim Butz

    Jim Butz
    Drama Teacher
    Town and Country MO

  • 2.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-02-2020 18:30
    Pioneer Drama Service has about 100 mysteries including those with audience participation, dinner theatre, and even a few musical mysteries! Our top seller is Murder's in the Heir. It's a hoot because there is no actual ending-the audience chooses who the murderer is! That means each performance can have a different ending, so patrons come back for repeat shows.

    Feel free to call me at 800-333-7262 if you'd like more suggestions, or check out our website at

    Debra Fendrich
    Executive Editor

  • 3.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-03-2020 18:19
    NIGHT WATCH, by Louise Fletcher, remains one of the best and tightest murder mysteries written in quite a while. AND, the central character is a woman. It has a cast of about 9.
    Another solid mm is HANGMAN'S NOOSE, by Gregory Batson (who wrote a few other good murder mysteries). The very end falls rather flat as written, but I solved that problem by adding a fight and a telling pause inside one of the final lines. All without changing the script one whit.
    It has a cast of 11, and I added 2 non-speaking servant types, who came and went.

    Nancy L. Bernhard
    Salinas High School
    Salinas, CA

  • 4.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-07-2020 11:09
    I like "Rehearsal for Murder" & "A Murder is Announced"
    Just throwing those into the mix!

    Amy Luskey Barth
    Talon Theatre Artistic Director
    Director, Thespian Troupe 5524
    Santa Margarita Catholic High School

  • 5.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-08-2020 03:19
    My favorite is Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE but we also had a great time a few years ago with a little known murder mystery called THE WOMAN AT DEAD OAKS.

    Kelley Marchant
    Artistic Director/Teacher/Actress
    Milwaukie OR

  • 6.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-08-2020 14:42

    I produced The Mousetrap about four years ago as my first play in a new school. It was an ideal show as i didn't really know my casting pool or technical capabilities yet, but with one set and a small ensemble cast the show didn't provide a lot of challenges. I know the plot is riddled with holes (all those people HAPPEN to be at the same guest house at the same time? How does Trotter not recognize his own sister? How is young newlywed Molly old enough to have been Trotter's teacher?) but the piece is incredibly well paced and there's a lightness and a momentum to it that makes it work in spite of the plot holes. It's creates a lovely atmosphere and if you have a cast that clips along, the audience never really has time to ponder the plot holes. 


    * Put your strongest actor in the role of Trotter as he really has to carry the momentum of the play from the middle of the first act to the end. It's a big line load and it's a lot of exposition. The remaining roles are pretty evenly distributed. 

    * Throughout the dress rehearsals I kept having people figure out the killer from watching the mostly-in-the-dark murder scene. I thought it was because the scene was too well lit and I kept making it darker and darker. Turned out test audiences recognized the actor's footfall. The sound of his shoes. So I had him slip his shoes off for the scene and perform it in his stocking feet and suddenly no one figured out it was him!

    * The period skis and ski boots are the hardest prop to find but not impossible. Also the accents were a bit of a challenge, but we spent some time on them.

    * My actors really picked up on the subtly coded LGBTQ characters in the play (Miss Casewell and Christopher Wren) and liked that they were treated sympathetically (neither the killer nor the victim). Surprising added bonus!

    I've included a few photos from our production.  Break a leg!

    John Monteverde
    Drama Teacher
    A3: The Academy of Arts & Academics
    Springfield, OR

  • 7.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-09-2020 15:58
    I second Rehearsal for Murder.  

    I've also had some fun with a show called Murder's in the Heir by Billy St. John.  The audience votes during intermission on the murderer, and there are different endings.  I had MANY folks attend multiple nights so they could try to vote in a different ending.  SUPER FUN!

    Kristina Cummins
    Capital High School 
    NBCT English/ Language Arts
    Theatre Teacher / Director
    Co-Director Washington State Thespian Board
    (360) 596-8053

  • 8.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-10-2020 08:58

    I have directed Murder's in the Heir twice.  it is a fun show with a good variety of parts, and yes, the audience votes on who the murderer is.  There are nine different characters who could be voted as the murderer.  Basically, the lines in the last five pages when the murderer is revealed are the same for whomever is voted in (with a few alterations for a couple).  When rehearsing, you will need to be sure to have all nine characters memorize and practice the lines so they are thoroughly familiar with them.  That was probably the biggest challenge to putting on this show but don't let that  worry you.  Both my casts enjoyed performing the show, and the audiences enjoyed participating in determining the ending.

    Good luck,

    Ken Robinson

    Kenneth Robinson
    Drama Club Sponsor
    Wapahani High School
    Selma IN

  • 9.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-09-2020 16:00
    I second Rehearsal for Murder.  
    I've also had some fun with a show called Murder's in the Heir by Billy St. John.  The audience votes during intermission on the murderer, and there are different endings.  I had MANY folks attend multiple nights so they could try to vote in a different ending.  SUPER FUN!

    Kristina Cummins
    Olympia WA

  • 10.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 07-11-2020 15:28
    I directly CLUE last fall with my HS students.  It was VERY fun!  Kinda complicated but lots of bold character work, quick dialogue, a true challenge for the tech crew.
    There is a HS script.

    Corey Wexler
    Marymount High School
    Los Angeles, CA

    Corey Wexler
    Drama Teacher/ Theatre Director
    Los Angeles CA

  • 11.  RE: Best Murder Mystery Plays

    Posted 08-05-2020 11:25

    I love the murder mysteries on Pioneer Drama as well! We've done WCKY, Murderous Night at the Museum, Murder on the Orient Express, The Groom Has Cold Feet, and A Family Reunion to Die For. All are very fun and have different crazy stereotypical characters that my students really enjoyed playing! 

    Stephanie Clussman
    Lakeville IN