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‘Murder on the Orient Express’

By Julianne Mosher

This is the train to… a murder? Full of twists and turns, this is one ride you won’t forget.

Theatre Three’s latest production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express turns the Port Jefferson-based Mainstage into a beautiful, expensive train suitable for travels of only the best of the best. Here, the audience meets eight different passengers who all have a secret with one common denominator. 

When Samuel Ratchett (Angelo DiBiase), a crooked conman, is found dead in his cabin, everyone on the train asks, “Who did it?” That’s when Hercule Poirot (Jeffrey Sanzel), a well-known detective (who can crack any case) steps in — even though this was supposed to be his vacation.

The show, directed by Christine Boehm and adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig, starts off in a hotel in Istanbul where Poirot is reunited with an old friend, Monsieur Bouc (Michael Limone), owner of the lavish train. Bouc offers Poirot a ride to get back home — even though it’s mysteriously fully booked for the off-season. While on the platform, we meet the rest of the cast: Colonel Arbuthnot (David DiMarzo), Mary Debenham (Cassidy Rose O’Brien), Hector McQueen (Steven Uihlein), Princess Dragomiroff (Sheila Sheffield), Helen Hubbard (Linda May), Countess Andrenyi (Michelle LaBozzetta), Michel the Conductor (Zach Johnson), Greta Ohlsson (Samantha Fierro), and the Head Waiter (Richard O’Sullivan). 

With costume and wig design by Ronald Green III, set design by Randall Parsons and projection design from Brian Staton, it’s impressive how the stage turns into several different settings during pre-World War II Europe — a lavish hotel restaurant, three train sleeping cabins in a row, the train bar. With ease, the sets change between scenes, giving the story a movie-like appeal that is on a higher level than Broadway.

And while the sets turn the stage into 1934, a fun effect that adds even more to the stage is a projector screen above the stage that helps tell the story through video and images. We’re introduced early on to Daisy Armstrong (who was loosely based on the Lindbergh baby) — a little girl who’s playing in the yard with her nanny and who is suddenly kidnapped — which, at first, is confusing. Why do we need to know who she is? She’s essential to the story and is that common denominator mentioned before. 

We can’t give too much away, because going in not knowing the plot twists will only make the experience better. Through the two acts, we learn the supposed backstories of all eight passengers on board — and eventually their truths of where each of them was the night Ratchett was brutally murdered. 

But the investigation couldn’t have been complete without Detective Poirot. Sanzel’s interpretation of the famous crime stopper is jaw-dropping and will leave you wanting more stories with him solving another mystery. Along with Sanzel, the entire cast deserves a standing ovation. The accumulated talent of everyone on stage truly tells an intriguing story, but each bringing their own flair and personality as their character. 

Since the show is based in Europe, many accents are heard on stage. It’s impressive that Limone’s Monsieur Bouc and Johnson’s Michel can speak with ease in a thick French accent for the hour-and-a-half-long show. May’s hilarious Helen Hubbard is the comic relief throughout most of the show with her silly persona and thick Minnesotan accent, while Sheffield’s Dragomiroff, LaBozzetta’s Andrenyi, and DiMarzo’s Arbuthnot’s various monologues continues to show the time and effort each actor rehearsed to make this play as realistic as possible.

And while their stories, backgrounds and nationalities are all different, the entire cast as a whole constantly get reactions out of the audience at every turn. Throughout the show, you’ll hear gasps, laughter and even an “I can’t believe it!” when the murderer is finally caught. 

If you want to find out who killed the horrible, nefarious Samuel Ratchett — and learn more about the stories surrounding this vicious crime — you’ll have to head to Theatre Three yourself. You won’t want to miss this so climb aboard and get your ticket to Murder on the Orient Express.


Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Murder on the Orient Express through May 4. Tickets are $40 adults, $32 seniors and students, $25 children (ages 5 to 12) and Wednesday matinees. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.