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Death, taxes and 'The Moustetrap' are forever

By GREGORY JENSEN

LONDON -- Nothing is sure in this world but death and taxes - and maybe the fact that Agatha Christie's play 'The Mousetrap,' which celebrated its 34th anniversary Tuesday, will run on and on and on. 'I have seen the show 400 times,' said Sir Peter Saunders, its producer.

Dame Agatha famously predicted 'The Moustrap' would have 'a nice little run' of six months or so. Tuesday night's performance marks the show's 14,149th -- the longest unbroken theatrical run in the history of the world.

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Ronald Reagan was still in the movies when 'The Mousetrap' opened Nov. 25, 1952, starring Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim. Harry S. Truman was president, Winston Churchill prime minister and Josef Stalin ruled Russia.

More than 7 million customers have bought tickets to the show since then, even though the two London theaters it has filled are both tiny. It's been performed in 43 countries and in 24 languages.

Saunders has said over and over he sees no conceivable reason why it should ever close.

As usual, Saunders not only injected new blood into the cast but performed a complete replacement to keep the creaky thriller fresh.

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The new cast, which took over Monday, is directed by Joan Kemp-Welch, the second woman among the show's 16 directors.

Diana Marchment is the 33rd actress to play the part of Mollie Ralston.

'I'm very proud,' she said.

By custom now so firmly established it is practically a tradition, 'Mousetrap' anniversaries call for an outpouring of statistics.

Saunders issued the usual tally, noting that 214 actors and actresses have appeared in the show, '62 miles of shirts have been ironed,' and more than 255 tons of ice cream have been consumed by theatergoers.

Saunders, knighted in 1982, is naturally a millionaire.

Agatha Christie gave the play's royalties to her grandson, Mathew Prichard. They made him so rich that a few years ago he gave them to a charity. The income they produce funds an arts center at the Atlantic College in Wales.

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