The 39 Steps - The funnier side of Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock..spoofed?  Well, let's see.  I walked into the theater and they gave me a red nose.  Clearly, if I didn't know that this was a true comedy, I would have to search deep down in my soul to think of ANY of my favorite Hitchcock movies that made me laugh, smile, smirk, grin, or even feel happy. Scared, yes...Happy, no. There were the Birds, but that wasn't funny.  I cringe every time I sit under a utility pole.  Then there was Psycho.  Showering alone is still a no-no. 


Courtesy of 39 Steps

In 1935, Hitchcock wrote the 39 Steps.  It wasn't meant to make you smile, BUT, because the movie is so exaggerated in acting as well as accents as movies were back then, it is ripe for a comedic version.  If you are going to see the show, you have 2 choices - you can see the movie before you see the show and then truly appreciate the humor, or you can see the movie after you see the show and then say to yourself, "NOW, I understand. why this show was so funny.  The question remains as to whether you will appreciate/understand the show if you don't see the movie.  For the hour and a half, sit yourself down, go to Hulu, call your library and watch it. 

The cast of The 39 Steps features original Broadway cast member Arnie Burton as Clown #2, as well as Billy Carter as Clown #1, Broadway vet Robert Petkoff as the dashing hero Richard Hannay and Brittany Vicars as Pamela/Annabella/Margaret in her New York City stage debut.  Bringing the original cast back together again is quite exciting and this 'package of professionalism' is beyond reproach.

Robert Petkoff, Arnie Burton, Billy Carter, and Brittany Vicars in a scene from "39 Steps" at the Union Square Theatre. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Poor Richard Hannay (Robert Petkoff) had no idea what he was getting into after he attended a show, featuring the 'amazing' Mr. Memory, who knows everything about anything.  Little did Hannay realize that the beautiful woman Annabella Schmidt (Brittany Vicars) was going to wind up in his apartment hungry for a piece of halibut.  But, alas, the knife winds up in her back, rather than on her plate, and, thus, the action begins.  Poor Hannay, he flees his apartment and begins a frenetic journey to all sorts of places, with all sorts of accents, to find the killer.   

Billy Carter and Robert Petkoff in a scene from "39 Steps" at the Union Square Theatre. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Before she died, Annabella did mention 2 spies that were following her.  Does Hannay find these spies?   Let's just say, ALL the women he meets in this madcap comedy are played by Ms. Vicars.  She does a splendid job of changing clothing, hair, personalities and accents as we roll along to solve the mystery.  Sometimes, we must remind ourselves that she, indeed, is the same person.  Yes, there are four, only four, people in this show. Except for the fifth, which is s dummy, but, that's a whole other story.


Carter and Burton are slapstick geniuses.  Their timing when they are together, which is most of the time, is perfect. They didn't miss a beat as they went from scene-to-scene, train-to-train, city-to-city and role-to-role and hat-to-hat.  Oh, yes, and accent-to-accent. 

And, to make this show even more fun, if you are a Hitchcock fan (and who isn't) you will find some of his other movies portrayed quite clearly in this show.  The infamous shower scene in Psycho, Vertigo, North-by-Northwest and Rear Window, packaged nicely within the scenery and dialogue.

Robert Petkoff in a scene from "39 Steps" at the Union Square Theatre. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The non-stop action, thriller, comedy, is simply genius. Four actors play every scene and every character.  Most of the time, they are playing two roles at the same moment, changing hats, coats, hairstyles in the blink of an eye.

The return of Patrick Barlow's Drama Desk Award-winning show officially opened at the Union Square Theatre April 13. The production reunites the play's entire original creative team as well as some of the Broadway cast, and on August 10, the show celebrated its 150th performance.

"We are thrilled that New York City has welcomed our little-show-that-could back with open arms," said producer Doug Denoff in an earlier press statement. Based on the book by John Buchan and the classic 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, 39 Steps is a comedic spoof that follows dashing hero Richard Hannay as he races to solve a mystery and clear his name. With all the glitz and glamour Broadway brings, we should never forget there are gems off-Broadway. 

Alfred Hitchcock would have been 116 years old on August 13th.  The show celebrated his birthday with a post-show event.


Courtesy of 39 Steps


Adapted by Patrick Barlow, based on an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, and the book by John Buchan; directed by Maria Aitken; sets and costumes by Peter McKintosh; lighting by Kevin Adams; sound by Mic Pool; original movement created by Toby Sedgewick; movement staged for this production by Christopher Bayes; dialect coach, Stephen Gabis; production manager, Aurora Productions; production stage manager, Rosy Garner; general manager, Daniel Kuney/Roy Gabay Productions. Presented by Douglas Denoff, Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman, Mark Leonard, Neal Rubinstein, Neil Gooding Productions, J.M. Allain, Corey Brunish/Terrence Cranert, Patrick Blake, Albert and Trudy Kallis, in association with Fiery Angel, London.

At the Union Square Theater, 100 East 17th Street, Manhattan; 877-250-2929, Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes with a short intermission.

WITH: Arnie Burton (Clown 2), Billy Carter (Clown 1), Robert Petkoff (Richard Hannay) and Brittany Vicars (Annabella Schmidt/Pamela/Margaret).


The Union Square Theatre is located at 100 East 17th St. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit 39StepsNY.




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