The Villainous Stage

Crime Plays on Broadway and in the West End


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About the Book

Live theatre was once the main entertainment medium in the United States and the United Kingdom. The preeminent dramatists and actors of the day wrote and performed in numerous plays in which crime was a major plot element. This remains true today, especially with the longest-running shows such as The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and Sweeney Todd.
While hundreds of books have been published about crime fiction in film and on television, the topic of stage mysteries has been largely unexplored. Covering productions from the 18th century to the 2013–2014 theatre season, this is the first history of crime plays according to subject matter. More than 20 categories are identified, including whodunits, comic mysteries, courtroom dramas, musicals, crook plays, social issues, Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie. Nearly 900 plays are described, including the reactions of critics and audiences.

About the Author(s)

Marvin Lachman has won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award and the World Mystery Convention’s Anthony Award for his writing about the mystery. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Bibliographic Details

Marvin Lachman
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 264
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9534-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1875-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
1. Early Days 3
2. Adaptations and Sensation 9
3. History and Mystery on Stage 21
4. Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street on Stage 29
5. Series Detectives and Rogues 39
6. Agatha Christie, Playwright 51
7. Crook Plays 66
8. The Theatre of the Mind 77
9. Trial and Error: Courtrooms on Stage 90
10. The Stage Side of the Triangle 102
11. The Spy Who Came Onto the Stage 112
12. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Theatre 128
13. Spoofing the Mystery 139
14. Social Studies I: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion 149
15. Social Studies II: Criminal Justice 161
16. Whodunits 172
17. Just in Crime: The Musical 187
Chapter Notes 209
Selected Bibliography 225
Index 227

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “[Lachman’s] knowledge is thorough and his analysis comprehensive and concise”—Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
  • “Offers a fascinating look at a wide variety of criminous theater”—Sherlockians and Doyleans
  • “This new survey of an often ignored area of crime fiction scholarship admirably fills a serious gap. This book deserves to be on the shelf of every serious fan of crime fiction”—CADS