Barn Theatre review: Local talent shines aboard the Orient Express

Don't miss this opportunity to find out “who-done-it” during final week of the Barn Theatre's production of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express." The final showings run Aug. 16-19 at 7:30 p.m.

The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar on April 8, 2022.
The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar on April 8, 2022. The final show of the summer is "Murder on the Orient Express," set to run Aug. 16-19 at 7:30 p.m.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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Prepare for an evening of grand entertainment, as The Barn Theatre’s latest production, “Murder on the Orient Express,” provides all that and more. Even if you think you know the show, you will be enveloped into the story being told.

The final three nights of the production are Aug. 17-19 at the theater in downtown Willmar.

The show stars our local news voice J.P. Cola as the unflappable Hercule Poirot, and his performance is stellar as he weaves the who-done-it stories together. Nancy Geiger is again excellent as an eccentric woman in search of fulfillment.

Peg Fortmann and Terry Brunson are convincing as a couple scheming about something important. Jennifer Bute plays a countess with a past that becomes important to the story.

Sean Babcock plays the very nervous businessman keeping all on edge.


Domonique McPhail and Cate Monson shine as a Russian princess and her Swedish singing attendant. Matthew Monson is the businessman’s right-hand man.

An actor of many talents who is new to the Barn, Jace Neal appears to have a bright future and finally, the gifted Steve Verhelst plays the train company manager who has to keep this tremendous cast of characters calm and comfortable on their trip, and draw you, the audience, to travel with them.

Aane Twedt created the set, which is, of course, the train, and makes full use of the stage for the active and delightfully ranging movements of the cast.

Similarly, the lighting by Patrick Gilmore is done well to allow the occasional reflective emotions of the story to shine.

The show is under the direction and choreography of Tom Orth and, this year, an assistant, Cheri Buzzeo. They integrate the story with other important parts of life, including music and movement which add to the emotion.

As the performance is set in international Europe, the cast have national accents which are well-done but yet easy to be understood.

The play is adapted from the book by Agatha Christie, and Ken Ludwig has proven himself a superlative playwright in the present time. Regular patrons of the Barn will remember his classic comedy “Lend Me a Tenor,” which has delighted audiences.

Although there is little laughter in a murder mystery, it does not change the great entertainment value presented in this show. Do not miss this opportunity to find out “who-done-it.”


Rob Kruger is a retired ACMC surgeon and a veteran of numerous Barn Theatre productions.

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