All the World’s A Stage

Plays, Operas, Musicals & Other Theatrical Diversions

    

Some of these are played straight. Some of them are played for fun. And few too many of them simply used the clothes of the P.I. genre to dress up something else entirely–and not always successfully.

Okay, this is, obviously all pretty new to me. If you know of any other dramatic presentations that feature private eyes, please drop me a line. Oh, and when known, I’ve listed the cities where these were first performed, and the original lead, if known.

  • THE ARGYLE CASE
    (1912, New York)
    Written by Harvey J. O’Higgins and Harriet Ford
    Starring Robert Hilliard as Detective Kayton
  • THE DUMMY
    (1914, New York)
    Written by Harvey J. O’Higgins and Harriet Ford
    Starring Ernest Truex as Detective Barney
  • COME SEVEN
    (1920, New York)
    Written by Octavus Roy Cohen
    Starring Earle Fox as Florian Slappey
  • THE GORILLA: A MUSICAL COMEDY
    (1925, Broadway)
    Written by Ralph Spence
    Featuring private eyes Mulligan and Garrity.
  • MURDER IS MY BUSINEESS
    (1958)
    Based on the novel by Brett Halliday
    Written by James Reach
    Featuring private eye Michael Shayne
  • THE BAND WAGON
    (1953)
    Not actually a play, but Vincent Minelli’s show-within-a-show film musical  definitely ranks a spot on this page. The film, about a down-on-his luck hoofer, Fred Astaire, angling for a Broadway comeback, is chockfull of musical numbers, including a singin’ dancin’ features a jazz ballet entitled ‘‘The Girl Hunt,’’ that pokes ample fun at Mickey Spillane‘s Mike Hammer.
  • MURDER OVER MIAMI
    (1958?)
    Based on the novel by Brett Halliday
    Written by James Reach
    Featuring private eye Michael Shayne
  • FLY PAPER
    (1970, Long Island, NY)
    Based on the short story by Dashiell Hammett
    Adapted by Kenneth Cavender
    Presented at The John Drew Theater
    Presented by The Yale Repertory Summer Theater
    Starring Louis Plante as The Continental Op
  • THE LITTLE SISTER
    (1978, Organic Theatre, Chicago)
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Written by Stuart Gordon and Carolyn Purdy Gordon
    Starring Mike Genovese as Philip Marlowe
  • PRIVATE DICK
    (1982, London)
    Based on the character created by Raymond Chandler
    Written by Richard Maher and Roger Michell
    Starring Robert Powell as Philip Marlowe
  • CITY OF ANGELS
    (1989, New York City)
    Written by Larry Gelbart
    Music by Cy Coleman
    Lyrics by David Zippel
    Starring James Naughton as Stone
    and Gregg Edelman as Stine
  • NICK AND NORA
    (1991, Broadway)
    Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett
    Music by Charles Strouse
    Lyrics by Richard Maltby
    Book by Arthur Laurents
    Original cast: Barry Bostwick and Joanna Gleason as Nick & Nora Charles
  • A RED DEATH
    (1997, Chicago Theatre Company)
    Based on the novel by Walter Mosley
    Written by David Barr
    Starring David Barr as Easy Rawlins
  • SAMANTHA PANTHER: TOUGH GIRLS DON’T SING
    (1998, Montreal)
    Written by Angus Kohm
    Starring Stepfanie Wiens as Samantha Panther
  • RED HARVEST: THE OPERA
    (2000, New York City)
    Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
    Music and libretto by Sean Carson
    Featuring The Continental Op
  • MARRY ME YOU DICK
    (2004, Los Angeles)
    Written by Larry McCarthy
    Starring Jessica Schroeder as Rosalind Riley
  • RED NOIR
    (2009, The Living Theatre, New York City)
    Written by Anne Waldman
    Starring Sheila Dabney as Ruby
  • DIRK GENTLY’S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY | Buy the play
    (2016)
    Based on the novel by Douglas Adams
    Written by James Goss and Arvind Ethan
    So far apparently unproduced, but available to read and perform worldwide.
  • MIKE HAMMER: ENCORE FOR MURDER!
    (2018, Clearwater, Florida)
    January 18-February 3, 2018
    Murray Theatre, Clearwater, Florida
    Based on notes left by late Mickey Spillane
    Written by Max Allan Collins
    Directed by Richard Rice
    Starring Gary Sandy as MIKE HAMMER
    Based on notes found in the files of the late Mickey Spillane, Collins originally wrote this as an audio drama, and was released in 2011, starring Stacy Keach and a full cast. When it became a stage play it starred Gary (WKRP) Sandy as Hammer. A planned sequel, The Little Death, scheduled for September 2018, also starring Sandy as Hammer, was subsequently cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. Not sure if it was ever produced.
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.

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