• Theater, Musicals
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Murder for Two

4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

McGinn/Cazale Theatre (see Off Broadway). Book by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair. Music by Kinosian. Lyrics by Blair. Dir. Scott Schwartz. With Jeff Blumenkrantz, Brett Ryback. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.

Murder for Two: in brief

Second Stage's summer Uptown series makes its first venture into musical theater with this wacky two-hander by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, directed by Scott Schwartz. Brett Ryback plays a cop at a murder scene, and Jeff Blumenkrantz plays multiple suspects.

Murder for Two: theater review by Adam Feldman

[Note: The production has now moved to New World Stages, and composer Kinosian has assumed the parts once played by Blumenkrantz.]

Second Stage Uptown’s new offering, Murder for Two, is a zany musical whodunit of agreeably modest intent: It doesn’t aspire to kill much more than time, and it succeeds. Brett Ryback, floppy-haired and faux-sincere, plays Marcus, a neophyte small-town policeman investigating a homicide; the victim is a famous local novelist, shot while arriving at his own surprise party, and any of the guests in attendance might have wanted him dead. (He has been spilling their secrets for years in his books.) In the gimmick that gives the show its name and much of its charm, ten Clue–style suspects at the scene—including the dead man’s dotty Southern wife, his eager niece, a gruff doctor, a femme fatale and three prepubescent boys—are played by a single actor, the rangy Jeff Blumenkrantz, in a mercurial stream of camp-inflected accents, props and mannerisms.

Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair’s score is a silly-clever throwback to 1950s novelty cabaret, and director Scott Schwartz milks the show for every drop of tomfoolery: vaudeville bits, sound effects, meta winks, audience participation. Like many a lark, Murder for Two takes time to get off the ground. But after flapping its wings for a couple of scenes, it wins you over with droll writing and winsome performances. Along with acting and singing, Ryback and Blumenkrantz also accompany each other on piano; if you like your show-business men hardworking, you may end up smitten.—Theater review Adam Feldman

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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