Saturday, February 15, 2014

Murder For Two Review

You know what I miss? Good old Vaudeville style shows. As we progress further and further into the 21st century, it's becoming more and more apparent that Broadway shows are going to be all style with very little substance. Looking at most of the big name Broadway shows that have sprung up in the last decade or so and while you will find shows that do have an emotional core and are legitimately good, they're quickly swept away to make room for what I call "Standard Broadway". A "Standard Broadway" show is a show that's a bid musical, has lots of dancing, may have a celebrity or two that the audience will cheer and yell at, or was made by an influential person, win tons of awards... yet immediately after seeing it, I can't remember a single thing about the show. No impact, no importance. It's just forgettable and gives a thrill for just that short time. It's only more off-Broadway stuff, or those few odd shows, that really make me excited and remind me of just what Broadway is capable of. In others words, you have to look for those risky shows to get the most enjoyment out of Broadway.

In Murder For Two, Marcus Moscowicz is a police officer that's been trying for months to become a full blown detective, and he finally has the chance to impress his chief when a murder takes place at the mansion of the famous novelist Arthur Whitney. As it turns out, it was Mr. Whitney's birthday, and as soon as he got home, he was shot by someone at the surprise party planned for him. Who killed him? Was it his wife? The neighbors? His psychiatrist? The ballet dancer? His niece? Or was it three little schoolboys that just so happened to be there? Marcus has 90 minutes to find out before the actual detective can get there, and before the murderer can escape.

Do you wanna know why this show is called Murder For Two? It only has two actors in the entire show. One actor plays Marcus, and the other actor plays over ten characters, each with their own distinct personality and ticks. Some are taller, some are shorter, some have bad backs, and some are near sighted. All of these characters are done uniquely, so the audience is never confused as to who's talking. And even when it is confusing, they usually play it off as some kind of an elaborate joke. This just takes an incredible amount of talent to pull off, especially for the guy playing pretty much every single character. All of the effort that goes into creating each individual person, and making each of them identifiable, has this guy earn immediate props for his effort. It's not easy to do, but the show pulls it off almost effortlessly.

Sometimes the show can get... weird to say the least
Everything about this show just screams old school Vaudeville. Each actor plays the piano and often do gags related around it. Even outside of the show itself, sometimes the actors just have fun and play the piano for a few minutes, stopping the plot dead in its tracks just to play a song, and while that would normally ruin the flow of the entire show, it's just too fun to not watch. I mean, they play an entire song facing away from the piano with a mirror showing the audience that they aren't faking it. It's old school kind of humor that I've sorely missed. Hell, there's even a bit of good ol' fashioned slapstick in the show. If you told me this show came out in the 20's or 30's and that I was watching a revival, I would have totally believed you.

But above all else, this is a mystery. Who killed Arthur Whitney? Each character is interviewed by Marcus, which usually leads into a song or two, but all of them are equally enjoyable, minus the niece. Not to spoil the ending, but the niece is by far the most teeth grindingly annoying character of the entire show. It's a perfect combination of her personality, which was written into the script, but unfortunately, blame also has to be given for the actor's performance of her. Her voice is so high pitched and speaks to fast that it seems like she doesn't know how to breathe half the time. The sad part is that out of all of the murder suspects, she's one of the more prominent suspects, so we have to deal with her a lot.

That being said, I really did enjoy this mystery though. There was plenty of evidence that made you suspicious of everyone, and while I somewhat pieced together who the killer was, I didn't think that they were actually the killer until the show flat out revealed it. You know you have a good mystery when the audience is kept in the dark for the entire show, and when the big reveal happens, everything makes sense. It just sucks that when it comes to explaining how the killer did it, it's never really explained and they try to skirt around the issue with some well placed jokes. Funny jokes, don't get me wrong, but I wanted a substantial answer to the mystery on how they actually murdered Arthur Whitney.

Anyone else getting Dana Carvey vibes from this guy?
If you couldn't tell up until this point, this show is an unabashed comedy. I laughed from the beginning to the end, whether it was from fourth wall breaking jokes, puns, or just bizarre situations. When one suspect breaks into an over the top song just so that they can have a song, I nearly died from laughter................ Okay not really, but it was still funny! And yes, this is a musical. None of the songs are particularly memorable or even that great, but in the moment they're funny and they give each character life to them. Plus, again, props to the actor that plays all of the murder suspects, who frequently goes between characters in songs. At most, he switches between six characters in one song. That's insanity, but he pulls it off!

Broadway should take note of Murder For Two as to how a musical should be done. Not in terms of size mind you, cause sometimes having a large show is a lot more entertaining, but how to present itself. This is a show that knows exactly what it wants to be and by God does it do that. It's a small show, it's old fashioned, and it's surrounded by jokes and a sense of humor reminiscent of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It doesn't try to be bombastic and say a lot more than it really is saying (coughpippincough); it's just a show that retains its scope and doesn't try to be something that it isn't.

I know that it may sound confusing what a "Standard Broadway" show is and what separates shows from this unfortunate distinction, but put it this way. Kinky Boots is "Standard Broadway". Matilda isn't. Wicked is "Standard Broadway". Once isn't. It's an idea that money and popularity can make something good with a lack of merit or justification of said popularity. They're shows that talk the talk, but can't walk the walk. Murder For Two doesn't talk a big game, but sure can do well at it. That's really what makes a show like this work. Murder For Two is just an old school murder mystery with a dash of great acting and a sense of humor. That's why I give Murder For Two a 4 out of 5. See this show.

And now I eagerly await the sequel, Massacre For Three.

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