First Case of TV Detective Columbo On Stage

First Case of TV Detective Columbo On Stage

New Farm Nash Theatre (Brisbane) presents Columbo: Prescription Murder by William Link and Richard Levinson from July 14 to August 4, 2012.

Dr. Roy Flemming, a brilliant New York psychiatrist can no longer tolerate his marriage to his neurotic, possessive wife. With the aid of his mistress, he evolves an ingenious murder plan that depends on a bizarre impersonation to create a perfect alibi. The scheme is carried out successfully, but the police officer assigned to the case, Lieutenant Columbo, grows suspicious and he and Flemming engage in a cat-and-mouse duel of wits, in which the psychiatrist has to improvise at top speed in order to counter Columbo’s sly tactics.  Whether Dr. Flemming gets away with murder, or whether the unprepossessing yet tenacious policeman solves the case, is revealed in a surprising climax.

In 1961 Prescription Murder, the famous TV Detective’s first case, premiered as a stage play, and starred Thomas Mitchell (Gone with the Wind/It’s a Wonderful Life) as Lieutenant Columbo and Joseph Cotton (Citizen Kane) as the villain Dr. Flemming.  As it transpired, Columbo was Thomas Mitchell’s last role – he sadly died while the show was on tour and before it could make its Broadway Premiere.  In 1968, the play by William Link and Richard Levinson was made into the two-hour television movie that aired on NBC starring Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo and Gene Barry as Dr. Flemming, and became one of two pilots for the long running Television Series which premiered in 1971.

Director Sandra Harman told Stage Whispers:

“I have very fond memories of following the Columbo TV show when I was young. I have always been a fan of a good murder mystery and was intrigued by Peter Falk's faultless presentation of the bumbling, vague, likeable yet strong and highly intelligent character. I also had a great love of Peter Falk as an actor. I came accross a second hand script quite a few years ago and kept it in preparation for "one day". That day came last year when sadly the legendary Peter Falk passed away and I thought it was time to dust off the script and see if Nash Theatre may just let me direct it. I then found out that a revival of the play had been staged in the UK in 2010 and 2011 to great success, which further inspired me to get this production on stage, albeit on a much smaller budget and scale.

“The fact that Columbo was such a distinctive, iconic character meant that my approach needed to be one of respect for the popularity of the television series, my fondness for the show, yet a respect for the authors’ original intentions with the play. Indeed the character in the script is very well drawn and you can see immediately the source material used by Peter Falk for the character of Columbo - it is all there in the original script. The authors, William Link and Richard Levinson adapted their own stage play into the first 'pilot movie' for the TV show so the original intentions have simply been carried through from the source material.

“I wanted the setting to remain in the 1960's and have the look and feel of the late 60's / early 70's television show with the furniture pieces, costuming and attention to detail. A little bit of nostalgia, which I believe works for the show. To take it out of it's time would be a tricky mix, and I am not sure it would work with the script.

“I hope I have allowed my actors to breathe their own life into the characters and into this great piece of 1960's theatre. Especially with Lt. Columbo. I wanted the character to be embodied and true to the script and yet have just a little respectful nod to the genius of Peter Falk's character quirks. A fine line, and I beleive that Paul has achieved just that. The character is definitely recognizable, yet fresh.”

Actor Paul Careless, who portrays the iconic Columbo, told Stage Whispers:

“It is extremely daunting to attempt to essay a role which has been made famous and indeed claimed exclusively by such a talented and consummate actor as Peter Falk.

“An imitation would be both insulting and redundant apart from being beyond my ability. All that can be done is to attempt to interpret the character of Columbo as written in the play.

“The influence of Peter Falk's towering performance can never be far from the performer's mind and will to both a conscious and unconscious degree affect to some extent the way the character is played.”

New Farm Nash Theatre is proud to bring to the stage the original play which inspired the TV series featuring Aaron Bernard, Paul Careless, Nikki McCrea, Natalie Mead, Andrea O’Halloran & Simon Pagano.

Opens Saturday July 14, then plays Fridays & Saturdays 20th, 21st, 27th, 28th July / 3rd & 4th August @ 7.30pm, Thursday 2nd August @ 7.30pm and Sundays 22nd July @ 2pm & 29th July @ 6pm

Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Road, New Farm

Bookings: 3379 4775 or Email

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.