Brooke Paige, Anna Francis, Jason Bearden, Ryan Beyer, Mike Bucci, Shelby Durbin, & Tiger Rogers in Murder on 34th Street. Photo: WhoDunnit.

Vote for the 2024 Arts-Louisville Theatre Awards!

Murder on 34th Street

Written by A.S.Waterman
Director and Musical Director: Beth Olliges

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Santa’s team is preparing for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which, although ostensibly organized by Mr. Macy, is put together by Merrie Christmas (Anna Francis), Santa’s dutiful wife and the real boss of Santa Inc. Two other members of the staff, Noel Frost (Tiger Rogers) and Eve Holiday (Brooke Paige) are trapped in competition, while Nicholas Green (Jason Bearden) and Holly Snow (Shelby Durbin) are young and in love. It isn’t very long before Holly has discovered the murdered Mr. Macy and the mystery is underway. Of course, we might safely assume that Santa himself (Mike Bucci) is not a suspect, particularly since he conjures up Dr. Angus MacCrimmon (Ryan Beyer) to determine who committed the dastardly deed. 

Murder on 34th Street is bright and breezy holiday entertainment, but the murder victim is the head of the iconic New York City department store, which summons up thoughts of online shopping rubbing out the tradition of brick-and-mortar retail. Whether or not the playwright intended such a metaphor may not matter; it still resonates that way in 2023.

The Macy’s Department Store is famously located on 34th Street in NYC, and the title is a joke on the title of the classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street, a once perennial holiday touchstone that seems to have fallen somewhat out of fashion in recent years. It is streaming now on Amazon Prime. Suffice it to say that it is about believing in Christmas.

Macy’s “death” confounds Santa’s staff, who know nothing of mortality and deny the existence of “real” people. It makes for some curious table interactions with the characters, at first obfuscating the search for clues. Even with that, seven audience members correctly solved the mystery the night I was in attendance.

WhoDunnit always double-casts their shows. The cast I saw was Jason Bearden, Ryan Beyer, Mike Bucci, Shelby Durbin, Anna Francis, Tiger Rogers, and Brooke Paige.  At other performances, you might encounter Rebecca Henderson, John Lina, Faith Matthews Müller, Dan Remaks, John Thwing, Kitty Timbers, & Jessica Vautard. 

The ensemble I watched delivered one of the tightest WhoDunnit performances in my experience. With focused energy and sharp timing, they were a crack team. Ryan Beyer maintains his solid run as Dr. Angus MacCrimmon, Waterman’s signature detective, and Anna Francis’ confidence is that of a veteran. Shelby Durbin is a new face to me, and her effervescent charm was contagious. She also could be sisters with reliable WhoDunnit regular Brooke Paige, while Tiger Rogers is on target with his eager-to-please nerd. Jason Bearden brings the right degree of sweet doofus, and Mike Bucci was a solid Santa Claus.

Murder on 34th Street

Fridays December 8 & 15, and
Saturdays December 2, 9, 16, and January 6, 2024

Admission begins at 6:30 pm/Show begins at 7:00 pm

WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater
Bristol Bar & Grille Downtown
614 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for