MURDER FOR TWO

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears (and paws and tails). Allow me to tell you about one of my favorite plays in New York. (It’s not Julius Caesar, but I did see a great production set in a women’s prison last weekend at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn—no cats, though. Lame.)Murder for TwoMcGinn Cazale Theatre

My dad-human is an occasional cog in the machine at a local off-Broadway theatre. He wears nice slacks, sweater vests, and button downs that are great for sleeping on and leaving my fur. He tells me he is the “house manager.”

Recently, I was happy to accompany my humans to the final dress rehearsal of a show called Murder for Two, which had transferred from a run last summer at dad’s theatre to New World Stages in Midtown. Dad had gushed, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

In basic terms, Murder for Two is a musical murder mystery as enacted by two players (Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback) and a piano. The plot is set in motion with the murder of famed novelist Arthur Whitney. Ryback plays the investigator, Marcus, a young cop who is gunning for detective, while Blumenkrantz plays… everyone else. And by everyone, I mean everyone—Dahlia, Whitney’s resentful former-showgirl wife; Barrette, the beautiful ballet dancer with a penchant for murder; Dr. Griff, the friendly local psychologist who just wants a best friend; an entire boys’ choir, and many, many more. It’s a classic whodunit with a twist, or a couple.

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

The main twist, and one of the things that makes the show such a pleasure, is that Ryback and Blumenkrantz accompany themselves and each other on the piano. The piano becomes a third character—sometimes as a tool when Marcus wants to convice Dr. Griff to talk in a best-friend-song, sometimes as a nuisance (one character has to run from his deathbed to the piano so that he can “have some music while” he dies), and sometimes as the competitive playing field for impressive four-hand piano stunts (all three players—Ryback, Blumenkrantz, and the piano—have incredible chemistry).

The other element which elevates the show from the predictable is how funny it is. My humans are quick to laughter, which I find irritating since it makes their laps bouncy, but I’m a bit more serious. However, the witty lyrics and book, the impressive physical comedy, and most of all, the tongue-in-cheek, fast-paced, meta-theatrical humor feels very current, and had me about as close as I can come to cracking a smile.

As for the cats… Well. None appear onstage. It’s really a disgrace. I don’t know why a cat couldn’t have been a suspect. Blumenkrantz would have nailed it, considering the skill with which he inhabited around fourteen other roles. Alas, no one consulted me in the construction of this show, so we have to settle for two offstage cats. Two items are hurled offstage—after the first, we hear a pitiful meow, and after the second, a loud roar. I am told no cats (or lions) were hurt in the making of this show.

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Murder for Mew.

All in all, despite the lack of cats, Murder for Two is absolutely worth seeing. My humans have seen it three times (perks of working in the theatre, I guess), and enjoy it more each go.

As for the final Pawprint Plot, Murder for Two clocks in at…

30 points. Still, go see Murder for Two at New World Stages!

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BIG FISH on Broadway!

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It’s rare that I make it out to the theatre—snuggling up at home with my human pillows and food anytime I can summon the strength to get to the kitchen is pretty cushy. However, tonight I had tickets to see a new Broadway musical, BIG FISH.

The name alone is enough to seduce a pesco-phile like myself, but the appearance of two cats made the production certainly something to write home about.

iwoW73N8wSV8BIG FISH is the stage adaptation of a film adaptation of a novel by Daniel Wallace. It concerns a man named Edward Bloom (Norbert Leo Butz) and his son, Will (Bobby Steggert). Edward’s life is ending just as Will’s is taking shape; he has just married, and his fiancee (Krystal Joy Brown) is pregnant with a son. Edward and Will have always had a fraught relationship. Edward is a storyteller of massive proportions, weaving unbelieveable tales of giants and mermaids and circuses and true love in daffodil fields. Will, on the other hand, was a practical child who became a practical adult. Over the course of the musical, we are treated to the biggest and brightest of Edward’s tales, while Will tries to parse where exactly his father’s real story fits into all of it.

This production is different from the film in many ways both in plot and tone. First, we’re missing the magical mystery town that appears in the film, which disappointed me. However, I’ve also never read the novel—this might be closer to Wallace’s original. As far as tonal shifts, humor is used to great effect, particularly in the first act. It’s intelligent, self-referential, purposefully silly humor, and it fits just in line with the excess and earnestness of the magical worlds in Edward’s stories. Everything’s just a bit unreal.

There are issues—certain songs, particularly for Sandra, Edward’s wifdt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls_e (Kate Baldwin) and Will, need shaving or cutting altogether, the book is notably stronger than the majority of the score, and the gravitas in the second act isn’t quite warranted based on the thin first act—but it’s a delight on the whole. Butz is an impressive and engaging performer, and the show is very much his. Also, the finale of the musical, as with the film, is so powerful and poignant and tender that even my green cat eyes teared up a bit.

NOW. To the cats. There are two. One appears in the arms of a slender, super-Susan Stroman sweetie in a blonde wig. She magnanimously fears for her cat’s safety against the dangerous giant lurking in the town’s cave. The next cat (the same cat? I was in the mezzanine and couldn’t tell!) flies past with a meow in a tornado scene. Finally, there is a remarkable stomach roar from one of my favorite actors, Brad Oscar, playing Amos, the carnival director. For a stage play, that’s a fair amount of cat-action.

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I dress up for the theatre, bitches.

All together, BIG FISH had all the elements of a great night of theatre, and the cats were just the icing on the cake.

The total score? 50!! Not bad for the theatre.

 

with my usual affect-less affection,

Franny the Cat

Pawprint Plot big fish