From top left clockwise: Mandy Ryle as Harper, Vanessa Postil as Astrid, Mark Alford as Kyle, Blubber as himself and Megan Wakefield as Claire in Olympia Family Theater’s “Fishnapped.” Alexis Sarah Courtesy
From top left clockwise: Mandy Ryle as Harper, Vanessa Postil as Astrid, Mark Alford as Kyle, Blubber as himself and Megan Wakefield as Claire in Olympia Family Theater’s “Fishnapped.” Alexis Sarah Courtesy

Arts & Culture

Locally written ‘Fishnapped’ is a mystery musical intended for the entire family

By Molly Gilmore

Contributing writer

May 10, 2017 06:13 AM

There’s something fishy going on at Olympia Family Theater. It’s “Fishnapped,” a locally written musical about the mysterious disappearance of a beloved goldfish.

Making its world premiere Friday, the pop-punk-flavored musical by Amy Shephard, Andrew Gordon and Daven Tillinghast is a twist on the interactive murder mysteries produced by the trio’s mobile theater project Open Road Productions.

This time, though, nobody gets hurt.

“It’s just a mystery,” said Shephard, the lead writer and choreographer. “There’s no murder.”

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She and Gordon were talking about writing a mystery for children, and the idea and title came to her pretty much the way flakes of fish food land on the surface of the water.

“I just threw out the idea to him: ‘Somebody’s goldfish gets taken. … It’ll be adorable.’ I went home that very day and wrote the first 20 pages.

“It was totally on the spur of the imagination.”

It would be difficult to think of a better word than “adorable” to describe the show’s star, Blubber, a Muppetesque hand puppet created by Jamie Jenson (who made Lowly Worm for the theater’s 2014 “Busytown”) and puppeted by actor Ryan Holmberg.

Though he doesn’t speak, Blubber is quite a character, and has a relationship with his owner, Claire (Megan Wakefield), said Jen Ryle, the theater’s artistic director.

“He has a cute little voice,” Ryle said. “He doesn’t really say words, but the kids will understand what he’s saying. He does tricks, and he’s definitely aware of what’s happening around him.

“Goldfish are able to recognize faces, so it all goes from that reality.” A study reported on at tinyurl.com/ky4tmul found archerfish could be trained to recognize the pattern of a particular face, and scientists believe other fish can likely do the same.

Blubber doesn’t sing, though he does dance in one of the musical numbers, composed by Tillinghast in a pop-punk style reminiscent of such ’90s bands as Blink-182 and played by a four-piece band.

“The music is really catchy,” Ryle said. “It’s an accessible style and different than I’ve heard in other musicals for kids.

“It you were a teen in the ’90s, you might be having kids now, so it works out.”

The show’s humor, done in a snappy style that will be familiar to those who’ve seen an Open Road mystery, also aims for parent appeal, Shephard said.

“It’s a very interactive show,” she said. “During intermission, the actors will be out in the lobby, so kids and parents can interrogate them.”

The show puts a twist on the whodunit formula: Audiences won’t guess who did it; they’ll decide who did it.

Shephard was inspired by “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” the first Broadway musical with multiple endings.

“We thought it could be a good a marketing tactic to have multiple endings,” she said. “People might want to see the show more than once.”

Fishnapped

What: Olympia Family Theater presents the world premiere of a mystery musical by Amy Shephard, Andrew Gordon and Daven Tillinghast of Olympia.

When: 7 p.m. Friday (May 12), May 19 and 26, June 2, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, 27-28 and June 3-4.

Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.

Tickets: $19; $16 for students, seniors and military; $13 for youth (12 and younger); available online or at the box office. For the pay-what-you-can performance May 19, tickets are available at the box office beginning at noon the day of the show.

Information: 360-570-1638 or olyft.org.