INTERVIEW: Alex Mandell On The New Production of CLUE At Paper Mill Playhouse
The newly imagined production of CLUE, based on the popular Hasbro board game and movie opened on January 30 at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Clue, based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny, Nuns on the Run), is written by Sandy Rustin (Paper Mill's recent production of A Jolly Holiday: Celebrating Disney's Broadway Hits) with additional material by Tony Award nominee Hunter Foster (Urinetownand Little Shop of Horrors on Broadway) and Eric Price (The Violet Hour, Radioactive). Based on the Paramount Motion Piction and the Hasbro Board Game, Clue will feature original music by Michael Holland (Godspell on Broadway).
I spoke with one of the stars of the show, Alex Mandell, who plays Mr. Green in the show. Alex has let us in on a little bit about his character and behind the scenes of the show. Check it out below!
What has it been like to be a part of CLUE at Paper Mill Playhouse?
It has been a dream! This cast, this material, this creative team… it would’ve been enough to do the show in normal times, but to get to work with these folks after the last couple years has been an utter delight.
This cast has some Broadway royalty from John Tracey Egan, Kathy Fitzgerald, Donna English, and even yourself. What has been like to work with such a stellar cast?
Each day spent with these incredible artists is a master class. Truly, I learned so much watching them craft these nuggets of comedy gold in rehearsal. Not only is each of them a brilliant comic actor in their own right, but they are as selfless and generous offstage as they are on. It is an honor to be mentioned in their company. Except Kathy Fitzgerald, who I hear has a criminal record.
What is different from this version of CLUE then the others? What can those who are huge fans of the movie and board game expect to see?
The show you’ll see is an adaptation of the film from 1985, which features the characters, murder weapons, and rooms from the game. Our playwright, Sandy Rustin, has done a stellar job of translating the cult-classic film to the stage. It’s an unenviable task, adapting a known and loved property such as Clue for the stage, but Sandy, and our director Casey Hushion, do a brilliant job of translating the essences of these characters without making carbon copies. You can expect to see many of the beloved moments and quotes from the film (“flames!”), and of course all of the classic characters, rooms, and weapons from the board game. Along with some other delightful surprises.
How did you go about researching and coming up with your version of Mr. Green? Did you learn anything interesting about him in your research and study of him?
I was always a huge fan of the film, and Michael McKean. As a lover of comedy I had studied all of the performances in the film well before I knew the play even existed. When we started rehearsing, I watched the film once, and then put it away. We were never asked to replicate the performances from the movie, so it was important to me to find my own way with Mr. Green. To be honest, I learn something new about Mr. Green in every performance. There are so many sub-plots being woven throughout the show, I hear a line in a new way every night.
What are some pre-show rituals you do before going on stage?
Well I always attempt to, you know, be a professional actor and stretch and warm up the ol’ voice before every show. The cast always comes together before the show in our own unique ways… many of which are too inappropriate to be mentioned here. Our primary objective backstage is to make each other laugh, so you can use your imagination.
This set for CLUE is extraordinary! It has so many facets to it. What is your favorite “room” in the mansion?
Lee Savage is our brilliant set designer, and he brought Boddy Manor to life in such a fun, inventive, beautiful way. I love all of the tableaus the set provides, but I think my favorite is the lounge - it’s the first room we see, and the way it is revealed is surprising and delightful.
Aside from Mr. Green, do you have a favorite character in CLUE? If so, who and why?
I’d probably have to say the singing telegram girl. If you’ve seen the film, you know she is the ultimate non sequitur. Hazel Anne Raymundo embodies her beautifully.
In this post-pandemic world, what have you learned as a performer that will make you an actor going forward in the roles you play?
Unfortunately we’re still very much in the pandemic, but being able to return to live performance again after these very difficult few years has been the ultimate gift. I have learned to never take an opportunity to do what I love for granted; I cherish every performance. No zoom room could come close to replacing the alchemical reaction between storytellers and an audience.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors who are up and coming in the industry?
Foster other interests in your life - they will help make you a well-rounded human which will directly serve your craft. Being an actor can be a very difficult life, but if you truly love it, all of the challenges will be worth it.