Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler has a killer good time at Second Stage Theatre’s production of Murder For Two.
Death becomes the New York theater scene as of late. The Roundabout’s recent product of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Murder Ballad, which began at Manhattan Theatre Club then transferred to an Off-Broadway, each offered their own spin on homicide: the former set in a Victorian music hall and the latter on the streets of modern day New York City.
But it is Second Stage Theatre’s Uptown Series production of Murder For Two that captures the beating heart of good old-fashioned musical theater and unconventional star turns for its two leading players. This whodunit integrates a bit of old fashioned Agatha Christie with standard musical theater fare, delivered in spades by Brett Ryback who plays the investigator and gloriously kooky Jeff Blumenkrantz as all thirteen of the suspects. Throw in the fact that they both play the piano and the only mystery audiences may ask themselves by the end of the show is how these actors manage to crank out two performances on matinee days without having a heart attack.
With book and music by Joe Kinosian and book and lyrics by Kellen Blair, director Scott Schwartz deftly directs the pair through interrogation, reenactment and ultimate solving of the crime. Ryback plays the anchor to Blumenkrantz’s zany collection of characters and their joyful chemistry echoes through the quaint McGinn/Cazale Theatre. Bits of ingenious stagecraft and lighting by Beowulf Boritt and Jason Lyons accentuate the fast-paced show, but it is Blumenkrantz, who at the flick of a handkerchief or quick-spun turn leaves the audience mesmerized.
Murder For Two is part of the Second Stage Theatre Uptown Series, a program created to help develop and provide exposure for the voices of a new generation of theatre artists. With a limited rehearsal period and streamlined budget, the creative team has made good use of every resource with this production—one that any fan of classic musical theater should be dying to see.
Murder For Two
The McGinn/Cazale Theatre
2162 Broadway at 76th Street
Extended through August 25.