A murder at Journeycon: To hostility ... and beyond!

By Christian Carvajal on March 11, 2015

I'm tight with Andrew Gordon, the actor-playwright who co-authors and produces mystery nights for his company, Open Road Productions, at Pellegrino's Italian Kitchen in Tumwater. His latest is an all-new musical, Murder Beyond the Stars. Andy, you have the floor:

"It's set at the 26th annual Journeycon, a celebration of the TV show Journey Beyond the Stars back in the '90s. It has a cast of characters you might recognize, starting with a brash but heroic colonel. We also have the original producer and creator of the show, who's now the convention organizer. There's a fangirl, played by Amy Shephard, and she has a deep dark secret. The colonel has a Russian love interest. Actress Heather Christopher and I went to Tacoma to sit down with a 93-year-old woman who grew up in Russia, who knew all these great Russian curse words. We added those to the songs.

"The convention takes place 26 years after the show ended disastrously. The two leads weren't speaking to each other. Something terrible happened, and that's to be revealed. The producer has decided to bring back the show as a movie, but instead of hiring the old cast, he's going the Chris Pine route. He went with a new, young, idiot actor, whom the script describes as all teeth and no brains. Kyle Henick plays him, and Rob Taylor plays his assistant. I don't think I'm giving away secrets when I tell you someone dies. Of course, everybody looks at least a little like a suspect.

"This is the fifth murder mystery I've written, and it's new in a couple of ways. We're working with Daven Tillinghast to create brand new musical pieces. We had the chance to work with kick-ass costume designers, Ricky German and Mishka Navarre, who've elevated our game. Pellegrino's has been incredibly supportive by investing in a live band, the Wildwood Orchestra. It's a thrilling creative process. Amy helped write scenes as well. The script developed over about eight months, so we had plenty of time for readings and directorial notes from Jenny Heddin. It's turned into more than I thought it'd be. I love putting characters in a box and shaking them up and seeing what happens to them.

"I'm definitely a geek myself, and I'm learning to be proud of it. Amy has this beautiful song about what it's like to be a fan of an actor like Leonard Nimoy, how she relates to this distant being. I wanted to be sure we weren't making fun of something precious. The geeks save the day. There's a celebration of fandom in the piece, and I'm elated about that given recent circumstances."

As for the eats, Pellegrino's will open at 6 for a cocktail hour before the main event. Then it's time for chef Sam Pellegrino's mushroom polenta, and an entrée of beef scaloppini, prosciutto-and-mozzarella-stuffed chicken, or stuffed portabella. Dessert is a tuxedo truffle mousse cake, because nom. So ahead warp factor one, Mr. Gordon. Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.

MURDER BEYOND THE STARS!, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 13-21, Pellegrino's Event Center, 5757 Littlerock Rd. SW, Tumwater, $50-$60, 360.709.9055