Judson Theatre Company’s production of Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution” opens Thursday for a five-performance run at Owens Auditorium at Bradshaw Performing Arts Center (BPAC), on the campus of Sandhills Community College.
Performances are scheduled Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 22, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 24, at 3 p.m.
With a cast headlined by Tony Award nominee Alan Campbell (from Broadway’s “Sunset Boulevard” and TV’s Jake “and the Fat Man”), it will be the first theatrical production in the newly renovated theater
Agatha Christie’s gripping tale of murder, justice, passion, and betrayal concerns young veteran Leonard Vole, accused of murdering widowed Emily French to inherit her wealth. As Vole’s defense team, led by noted barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts, struggles to untangle the truth, the Crown prosecutor and Emily’s dedicated housekeeper remain adamant that Vole is a ruthless killer. Only his enigmatic wife can prove his innocence. Stakes are high and the plot twists and turns as Leonard fights to escape the hangman’s noose.
“This one is definitely by popular demand,” says Morgan Sills, executive producer. “About a week and a half ago, we broke our single-day ticket sales record and our group sales record. It all started in the lobby after performances of ‘And Then There Were None’ as patrons were saying, ‘This was thrilling; you must do another Agatha Christie soon.’ Audiences and actors always love her plays because they’re both intensely dramatic and sharply funny.”
Adapted for the stage by Christie herself from one of her short stories, “Witness” opened in London in 1953 and on Broadway the following year, winning two Tony Awards. Its best-known iteration may be Billy Wilder’s 1958 film adaptation with Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich.
Recently, the play has experienced a worldwide re-emergence thanks to a 2016 BBC adaptation starring Kim Cattrall and Toby Jones, and a currently running Olivier-nominated revival in an actual London courtroom.
“The film is a classic,” says director Daniel Haley, “but it was very much rewritten and tailored to its stars by Wilder and screenwriter Harry Kurnitz. I’m confident our audience will enjoy seeing Christie’s stage play.”
In addition to Campbell, the cast includes Lizzie King-Hall (as Romaine Vole), Mike Brennan (Inspector Hearne), Maddie Casto (Greta), Jennifer Hope (Janet MacKenzie) and Michael Santora (Carter), all making their JTC debuts.
Returning to the Judson stage for their second appearance are James Cella (from 2016’s “Twelve Angry Men”) as Leonard Vole, and Matthew Tyler (from 2017’s “And Then There Were None”) as Mr. Mayhew. New York based New Zealand native Tim Garner returns for his third JTC show, having been most recently seen in 2017’s “The Sunshine Boys.”
Augmenting the out-of-towners are several experienced locally-based actors: JTC veteran Rick McDermott makes his fifth appearance with the company as Lord Justice Wainwright; after two decades of acting in Los Angeles, new Moore County resident Traci Loper makes her JTC debut as the Court Clerk; and Lisa Burton appears as Dr. Wyatt.
“As we’ve worked on the play, we’ve realized the antecedents of everything from ‘Law & Order’ to ‘Criminal Minds’ can be found in the works of Agatha Christie, and particularly in ‘Witness for the Prosecution,’ says Haley. “It’s one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done, bringing so many professional actors from New York, Los Angeles, and around the country to the Sandhills for a few weeks to rehearse and perform this courtroom murder mystery masterpiece— it’s a great night out, and we can’t wait to get this show in front of an audience.”
Tickets are available online at www.judsontheatre.com or in person at Given Memorial Library in Pinehurst or the Arts Council of Moore County in Southern Pines. They are $38 in advance, and $45 at the door. Military/student ticket are available at in-person locations or at the door for $20.