Since its debut in October 2015, Crime City has proven itself to be one of Peterborough’s most original and popular continuing theatrical projects. From the mind of Andrew Root, Crime City is a tribute to the radio dramas of yesteryear and a loving parody of hard-boiled detective stories.
Starring Mike Judson as detective Victor Marshall, Kenn Gibb as his 10-year-old sidekick Brad Bramble, and Marsala Lukianchuk as former spy Lillian Steel, the series also features supporting roles by Dan Smith and Mélanie Dubois. Performed live and in full costume by the players, Crime City is subsequently produced as a podcast by Adam Martignetti and made available to the public via SoundCloud.
Now in its second series, Crime City continues to attract new audience members each month. But on Saturday, February 25th, Crime City goes big when it moves from its home from The Theatre on King (TTOK) to the Gordon Best Theatre for an expanded night of musical performances, storytelling, and comedy.
“The move to the Gordon Best is not a calculated thing,” explains writer/director Andrew Root.
“It’s not us completing our business plan. We’ll be back at TTOK in March. We had a scheduling snafu. A couple of cast members were not available on our regular date at TTOK. It turned out the Gordon Best was available.”
“We’ve been toying with expanding the show, and adding some opening acts and making it more into a variety show, with Crime City as the main event. So we decided to turn onions into apples and just go for it.”
The regular cast will be on board to perform Episode 16, called “The Private Eye Effect”, at the Gorden Best. However, Andrew has opened up the night to include a musical set by local songwriter Caitlin Currie and guest star Danny Bronson providing live improvised background music for the episode.
The title of Episode 16 — a reference to “The Butterfly Effect”, in which small causes can have large effects — is a multiple-path adventure with eight possible endings depending on choices made by the audience.
Originally slated to be only 10 episodes, the continued popularity of Crime City among both the performers and the audience has kept it going long beyond what Andrew had originally envisioned for the series.
“I thought it was going to go for the first year of maybe nine or 10 episodes,” Andrew says. “We did the first series as one big long story, and the gang just wanted to do more. I was getting messages from the cast about when the next one was coming.”
“We ended the first series in June 2016 and took the summer off, but I was getting messages from everyone with their schedules. We’re doing the second season episodic; just one offs. It’s much easier to write — you just need to come up with a funny idea.”
At the forefront of Crime City is local TV personality Mike Judson exercising his acting chops in the role of Victor Marshall. Andrew has much a lot of praise for his star, who has proved his versatility in 2016.
“Mike’s really good. He’s confident on stage, because of his years of broadcasting, but he does things very unexpectedly. His private persona and his public persona are pretty different, so when you see some of the private stuff kick into the public it’s very surprising. He’s a very interesting guy.”
“Victor Marshall is the character who has changed the most over the series. He started off as the audience’s entry way into this weird story. He was the everyman. But Mike plays frustrated so well. Victor started off as a realist, where he figured it wouldn’t make a difference but he’d do it anyway. Now it’s just so fun to play the character as frustrated all the time, by putting him in the most impossible situations. He’s sort of the world’s punching bag, but he’s so sympathetic.”
Over the course of the series, Crime City has featured a plethora of Peterborough’s favourite performers in guest-star roles, including Linda Kash, Kate Story, Brad Breckenridge, and Megan Murphy. This has not only provided the series with a lot of great performers, but has helped solidify it into the local arts landscape.
“The show is based around the fact that I want to work with all these amazing talented people,” Andrew says. “But everyone is so busy, so this show is built in with the idea that if we can get them for one night, and they don’t have to rehearse a lot, then we can do all these amazing things.”
“It’s an interesting world-building kind of thing. We’ve been tinkering with the idea of doing more shows on the same fictional radio network. Over the Christmas break we did a lifestyle show, a super gentle radio show. It was all improvised.”
Crime City even has its own spin-off series called Dr. Lady Pilot, featuring Megan Murphy. Originally created for one of Crime City‘s popular fake advertisements, an actual episode of Dr. Lady Pilot was produced late in 2016, and proved to be one of the series most popular episodes.“We had intended to do an episode based around Lillian, but Marci got a paying gig and I can’t compete with that,” Andrew says. “She couldn’t make it and Megan Murphy was available, so we threw together Dr. Lady Pilot. I think it’s one of our better episodes. She’s great, and Megan plays her so perfectly.”
Andrew explains how he used the Dr. Lady Pilot episode to mock his own creation, by making Crime City the least popular show on the fictional radio network that broadcasts it.
“As part of our Dr. Lady Pilot episode, we did commercials for Crime City. We established that it comes on at 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, so it’s the least popular show on the worst popular time slot. It’s so much fun to kick your own creation when it’s down.”
With 16 episodes under their belt, and the special variety show being held on February 25th, what does the future hold for Crime City? Andrew has some big plans that could take the series beyond Peterborough and to a far larger audience.
“We’re trying to sell Crime City to the CBC,” Andrew reveals. “CBC Comedy held a town hall meeting at the head of their comedy division. They are revamping and rebranding CBC Comedy, and they invited a bunch of comedians in to consult about what they can do better. CBC is really interested in making relations with people.”
“So after the show, Adam Martignetti and I went to the people in charge of scripted podcasts because they apparently got zero pitches. We gave them a bunch of pictures and audios of the show. We’ve been emailing them every so often and, just before the holidays, we heard back that they will be reviewing the whole series.”
So if Crime City does get the green light with CBC will it be leaving Peterborough? Not necessarily.
“The charm of our show that it’s a live show,” Andrew says. “It can be recorded anywhere. It doesn’t need to be recorded in a studio in Toronto. You can record here, or Montreal, or wherever you want … as long as it’s in front of an audience.”
Whether you take it in live, or listen to the podcast via SoundCloud, Crime City delivers the best in local comedy month after month. Clever, witty, and filled with fun and endearing characters, this throwback to old-time radio is among the best that Peterborough has to offer.
If you haven’t taken in a live performance of Crime City yet, the expanded version on February 25th at the Gordon Best is a great opportunity to see the show and much more.
Despite the expanded entertainment, tickets are still the same price ($10 at the door) and the show begins at 8 p.m.