Celebrating 40 Years of “Shear Madness” at Boston’s Charles Playhouse

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It’s bittersweet to write this article. Sooner after our backstage interview, Shear Madness’s Boston instantiation closed on March 15, 202 as a result of the pandemic.

Shear Madness, the show that turned the murder mystery genre on its head, recently celebrated an incredible milestone — 40 years at the Boston Charles Playhouse. Holding the record as the longest-running show in the United States and the second-longest in the world, Shear Madness has brought laughter and intrigue to audiences for four decades. What better way to celebrate this achievement than an insightful chat with the show’s co-creators and a few long-term actors?

Backstage Interview with Original and New cast Members in boston

A Fresh Take on Interactive Theatre

Co-creators Bruce Jordan and Marilyn Abrams developed a unique concept with Shear Madness, an interactive murder mystery where audiences step into the shoes of detectives. The participatory nature of the play ensures each performance is as unique as the audience itself, creating a fresh and innovative experience at every show.

The Pillars of Shear Madness

Bruce Jordan, a man of many talents, is not just the co-creator of Shear Madness but also the co-adapter, co-producer, director of the Boston production, and for a time, an actor in the show. Marilyn Abrams, equally multi-faceted, co-created the play and originally portrayed Barbara DeMarco, a hairdresser.

The interview also brought to the fore some long-term actors who’ve been an integral part of the show’s journey. Patrick Shea, who has been with the show since 1983, has mostly played Tony, the role Bruce originally created. Joe Ruscio, the “baby” of the group, joined the show seven years ago and has since played various roles. Celeste Oliva and Shaundra Jurgus, each with over 20 years of involvement, highlighted the variety of roles they have played and the opportunities Shear Madness offered them in their acting careers.

Why Stay for So Long?

A question that naturally arises is why have these actors stayed with the show for such extended periods? The answer lies in the show’s dynamic nature. The actors have the freedom to step into different roles, refresh their perspectives, and constantly adapt to each unique performance. The supportive environment of the show and the opportunity to work in Boston’s vibrant theatre scene has kept many of them committed to Shear Madness.

Keeping it Current

One of the fascinating aspects of Shear Madness is its topicality. The cast, armed with their wit and creativity, bring in elements from current events and local happenings to keep the show contemporary and relatable. This evergreen quality, combined with the immersive and interactive aspects of the performance, contributes to its longstanding success.

Shear Madness is an interactive whodunit play and is one of the longest-running nonmusical plays in the world. On January 29, 2020, the Boston cast celebrated its 40th anniversary (the show’s 12,580th performance) at The Charles Playhouse Stage II. The show’s Boston instantiation closed on March 15, 2020.

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