Book &Music: Joe Kinosian
Book &Lyrics: Kellen Blair
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
A spooky mansion filled with suspicious characters, a freshly murdered corpse and dogged but flawed detective. The plot of this musical may initially seem to be straight out of either an Agatha Christie novel or a game of Cluedo, but neither of these comparisons last for long once this cast recording gets underway. Instead, memories are evoked of such small-scale witty musicals as Avenue Q and Snoopy.
Of course murder is a common subject for musicals. Chicago kicks off with a homicide while Kander and Ebb’s Curtains follows the great traditions of the whodunit. However Murder for Two has a big twist – even outside of the plot machinations. As the title suggests, this is quite literally a murder involving two people. That is to say two performers: one as the detective and the other playing every single other character.
The biggest issue in producing a show that relies on such a small cast is getting the right people. It is difficult to imagine a more perfect duo to fill these rôles than Brett Ryback as Marcus the policeman and Jeff Blumenkrantz playing all of the suspects. Ryback has a charming personality which coupled with a flair for comedy makes him reminiscent of Andrew Rannells’ Elder Price in The Book of Mormon. Meanwhile playing at least a dozen characters allows Blumenkrantz to showcase what a fantastic talent he is. Convincing portraying an elderly lady, a prima ballerina, a bickering couple or a trio of nine-year-old boys, his performance balances nuance with showboating and rates as one of the most impressive in musical theatre in recent memory.
It is apparent even from the CD that this switch between characters is done with such style, talent and wit that it makes the stage version of The Woman in Black (another two-hander) look like a walk in the cemetary. The fact that both performers also accompany themselves and each other on the piano throughout the entire show actually begins to boggle the mind.
This fantastic double-act are supported by some really first-rate material. Joe Kinosian’s music is melodic and catchy and encompasses a wide range of musical genres. Kellen Blair’s lyrics are at times laugh-out-loud funny and match the wit of modern comic gems like Mormon and Spamalot (an example sees the musical Mama Mia getting referenced while being rhymed with “diarrhoea” and “Ikea”). The snippets of dialogue between songs on this CD also suggest a book that brims with laugh-out-loud moments and everything is perfectly brought together by director Scott Schwartz (son of Wicked composer Stephen).
Two men and a piano haven’t been this funny since Laurel and Hardy needed to make a delivery up that big flight of stairs. Buy it now!