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A CurtainUp Review
Murder For Two
The Original Review by Deirdre Donovan
Murder for Two Gets a Second Life at new World Stages
The Original Review
KEEP YOUR SUSPECTS WELL-CONTROLLED
WHEN YOU'RE IN A PINCH
NEVER GIVE AN INCH
IT CAN BE A CINCH
IF YOU FOLLOW EACH RULE YOU'RE TOLD
EVERY PUZZLE PIECE HOLDS A CLUE
WHEN YOURE ADDING 'EM UP, JUST DO AS PROTOCOL SAYS.
— Marcus from song that's his guiding principle in his aim to be a "regular" detective.
New World Stages, the mutli-theater complex that has provided a second, long-running life to so many shows has done it again. Theater 5 is just big and small enough to be a perfect home for Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair's musical spoof on Agatha Christie's murder mysteries.
Brett Ryback and Jeff Blumenkrantz
(Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
Everything's in place as it was at the
Second Stage Theatre Uptown's McGinn/Cazale Theatre where it premiered and Curtainup's Deirdre Donovan reviewed it.
Since Deirdre covered the show's pluses and minuses I'm reposting her review below though my own take on the show was somewhat less enthusiastic than hers.
( The Original Review)
My addendum to Deirdre's minuses is that I agree with her comment that even at just 85 minutes that the production needs tightening — in fact, even more so since, rather than putting the show on a diet, the current production seems to have added twenty quite unnecessary minutes. Hopefully, the multi-faceted Blumenkrantz and Ryback and director Scott Schwartz will reign in the excesses as the show settles into its run. I would not only apply a blue pencil to the last fifteen minutes which seemed to end, but then not end, about three times, but cut some of Blumenkrantz's over the top and eventually tiresome shtick.
Watching Blumenkrantz and Ryback makes one wonder if one could ever find another duo of expert pianists (standing as well as sitting, alone or together) also up this piece's enormous physical demands. However, the program does list understudies, so besides this second run at New World Stages, this fun little show may well have a long life in regional theaters and abroad (especially in Great Britain since much of Murder for Two's humor has a very British flavor). Given this dynamic duo's talent and the small size of this theater, I couldn't help wishing that they had felt confident enough to perform without head mikes.
In case Murder for Two triggers memories of another and quite different two-hander by a talented piano duo, here's a link to our review of Two Pianos, Four Hands. Not a mystery spoof but a musical memoir about years of piano lessons that culminated in this world touring little piece with music ranging from Billy Joel to Bach.
Current Production Notes
Murder for Two
Book and Music by Joe Kinosian & Book and Lyrics by Kellen Blair
Directed by Scott Schwartz
Cast: Jeff Blumenkrantz (The Suspects), Brett Ryback (Marcus).
Sets: Beowulf Boritt
Costumes: Andrea Lauer
Sound: Jill BC DuBoff
Lighting: Jason Lyons
Music Director: David Caldwell
Choreographer: Wendy Seyb
Stage Manager: Amber White
Running Time: Announced at 80 minutes, but running 95 minutes with no ntermission at performance reviewed
New World Stages 340 West 50th Street
From 10/23/13; re-opening 11/06/13; closing 3/16/14 -- to an early grave, now closing 6/29/14
Mondays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 7pm, Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm.
Re- Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on press performance of 11/01/13
The Original Review
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Get out your sweat rags, murder mystery buffs! Murder for Two, the new whodunit musical, is 80 minutes of non-stop wackiness and killer suspense. It's a two-hander that brings to mind Agatha Christie's classic tales and the old cliche: Watch your back.
"Listen, Lou, just give me until Grayson shows up; that's fifty minutes. I know I can solve this; I'm great at this stuff! I started reading "Ten Little Indians" and immediately knew the judge did it.".— Marcus
Brett Ryback plays the investigator Marcus and Jeff Blumenkrantz does all thirteen murder suspects. Though Ryback and Blumenkrantz are clowning up a storm here, they balance out the theatrical equation with their virtuoso playing at the piano.
The show's premise could be framed with the single question: Who killed the great American novelist, Arthur Whitney, at a surprise party thrown by his wife Dahlia? During the course of discovering the answer, wannabe detective Marcus of the Collarhorn Police Department questions the dickens out of some slippery suspects: the aforementioned Dahlia. . . a friendly psychiatrist Dr. Griff. . . the grad student Steph (she's getting her masters in criminology and writing her thesis on "How to Assist in the Solving of a Small-town Murder"). . . the ditzy ballerina Barrette Lewis. . . the quarrelsome couple Murray and Barb Flandon. . . a trio of the twelve-member Boy's Choir. . . the local firefighter Henry Vivaldi. . . the invisible but indispensible cop Lou. And, oh yes. Marcus will become a person of interest as the investigation wears on; and another domestic crime — stolen ice-cream— will be brought to light by the locals and hopefully figured out.
The mystery hinges on whether or not the young officer Marcus will make detective. As a newbie to the police force, he is determined to climb up his next career rung, and show the chief that he's "got what it takes." And with the regular Detective Grayson an hour out of town, it creates a golden opportunity for Marcus to step in temporarily, and cut his detective teeth by investigating the fatal shooting of Whitney.
Joe Kinosian's book brims with tomfoolery and his music serves up toe-tapping rags and boogie-woogie blues. Kellen Blair has a hand in the book and shows a knack for clean lyrics that aren't dazzling but get the dramatic idea across.
The show as directed by Scott Schwartz, the show could be tightened up quite a bit, and some scenes pared down at the finale. Though all the red herrings are fun, you might get a tad exhausted weary with the madcap plot twists and turns.
Speaking of tall orders, the two performers, must really stretch their theatrical muscles to inhabit their roles. Blumenkrantz ostensibly has the more difficult feat, playing multiple roles in rapid succession. Alhough his eccentric characters are no more than cartoons, he pulls each off with panache. Ryback, in contrast, has more of a chance to inhabit the persona of Marcus. And he does. His Marcus hilariously penetrates each suspect's lies, truths, and more.
Both Blumenkrantz and Ryback do well in their acting and singing, but they are standouts in tickling the ivories. Together they make some terrific music. In their finale duet they not only play with four hands, but pound out some extra measures with their feet as well. This little bit of soul, or rather sole music, adds some extra fun.
Having seen The Tutors earlier this year at Second Stage Theatre Uptown, I welcomed the opportunity to return to this venue that provides a platform for new theater talent. Though Murder for Two gets too long-winded in its last 15 minutes, and its zig-zagging plot demands, and holds, your full attention.
Murder for Two played at
Second Stage Theatre Uptown's McGinn/Cazale Theatre from 7/10/13 to 8/25/13. Same cast and crafts team as listed for the current production.