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Murder Ballad Gives Audience Members a Chance to Get up on Stage and Order a Drink

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Sara (Lauren Molina) is a New York City resident living on the Upper West Side with a dangerous downtown past mixed up in a love triangle gone wrong. She's one of the lead characters in Murder Ballad, an 80-minute, without intermission, pop rock musical.

The off-Broadway show was something that Theatre Under the Stars Artistic Director Bruce Lumpkin knew he wanted for TUTS Underground as soon as he saw it. And now it'll be staged at the Hobby Center's Zilkha Hall in a regional (and national outside of New York) premiere.

"It takes place in a lower downtown club. The set is a working bar with audience members on stage. They're not brought into the action, but they're there on stage."

Doors will open 55 minutes before showtime and Lumpkin promises that audience members can go up on stage, order a drink, even play some pool before the musical starts - which it will suddenly and in a surprising way he declines to disclose.

"There are four characters [a narrator and the love triangle]. It's a murder mystery and you're told in the beginning that a murder takes place," Lumpkin says. What follows is done as a flashback. "You don't know who's the murderer and who dies it till the end of the show."

Lumpkin also says this third offering in the inaugural season of TUTS Underground is unlike the two previous ones (Lizzie and 50 Shades! The Musical -- The Original Parody ) and that things are going well for the new enterprise. "We had to add performances for 50 Shades," he said. "We can do things here [the smaller Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center] that we could never ever do on the main stage."

Steel Burkhardt (Hair on Broadway) Patrick McRoberts (Miss Saigon on Broadway and on tour), and TUTS regular Kristin Warren (Man of La Mancha round out the cast.

Murder Ballad runs April 17 through 27 at the Hobby Center's Zilka Hall, 800 Bagby. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit tutsunderground.com. $24-$39.

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