Review: Shear Madness is a spring murder mystery tonic for the soul

A little murder at the end of a long winter can be just the theatre ticket.

Shear Madness provides the audience a murder mystery tonic with a double dose of laughter and whodunit interaction. Watching the plot unfold and nailing the culprit has never been this much fun, especially since the audience itself will determine the solution to the murder.

Set in a hairdressing salon where the intimacies of life are never concealed, the audience sizes up the characters, or, in this case, caricatures as the story unfolds. A brilliantly gay proprietor, Bronxy manicurist, a snooty socialite and a sketchy antiques dealer find there is a murderer in their midst.

The investigation is underway immediately as two customers handily turn out to be cops. Everyone in the salon is a suspect for the murder of the aging prima donna upstairs. The performers desperately solicit the help of the newly discovered audience by asking leading questions and rehashing events; culminating in a vote.

This is way more fun than discovering that the killer was Colonel Mustard in the library with a wrench.

Wade Lynch, as Tony Whitcomb, is pivitol to the fun as the temperamental, hyper hairdresser who endears himself to the audience with his high spirits and arch quips. He is returning to the role, as is Liz Gordon as snobby diva, Eleanor Shubert, who plays it with subtle style.

Mary Ann Conk is Barbara DeMarco, the tacky manicurist who has played in American productions of Shear Madness for years and shows her skill.

The players are remarkable in their quick wit in dealing with the happily interfering audience. Local references such as Tony’s excited “I haven’t done a shave since Grand River Hospital” add to the hilarity.

Antiques dealer Eddie Lawrence (Gordon Gammie), and even cops Nick Rosetti (Kevin Sepaul, also returning to his role ) and Detective Mikey Thomas (David Cotton) are also considered suspects. Cotton will be remembered for his lead role in Disney’s High School Musical with Drayton Entertainment. They will all be remembered for their hard work and out of control laughter when often edgy witticisms are thrown in.

Shear Madness is directed by Bob Lohrmann, who is the associate artistic director for the Kennedy Centre, in Washington D.C., where the play has broken many box office records during its unprecedented 24 year run. That experience brings a smooth flowing life to the story and offsets any quirks that improvisation can bring.

The set design is a cozy, gossip inducing atmosphere with working parts from blow dryers to wash sinks. Samantha J. Burson has made it fun and funky as well.

The play is named in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running non-musical play in American theatre history, and holds the more local honour of being the most popular comedy in Drayton Entertainment history. Perhaps it’s longevity is due to enjoyable improvisation, and ever changing script and ending.

Drayton Entertainment’s new season holds promise with this riotous show as the kick-off.

Shear Madness runs from March 16 through April 10. Tickets can be purchased in person at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, online at or by calling the box office at 519-747-7788 or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).