By Erika Brown Thomas
This July through August, Lincolnshire’s Marriott Theatre presents a musical unlike anything ever seen. Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair’s uproarious comedy is an entertaining tour de force for theatergoers looking for a a fun-filled, laughter inducing ride.
Murder for Two presents itself as a classic murder mystery, a surprise party that begins with a bullet, but this musical comes with a twist. It’s a two-man show with a baker’s dozen cast of characters who provide themselves with prolific and hysterical piano accompaniment. This fast-paced 90 minutes is filled with jokes for every sense of humor.
Noel Carey and Jason Grimm dominate the stage from start to finish. Carey plays Marcus Moscowicz, an ambitious officer desperate to make detective while Grimm brings all 12 of the remaining characters to life as “The Suspects.”
Their complete mastery of the comedic piano harkens back to the incredible musicianship and timing of the Marx brothers or of the inimitable Victor Borge—unique and remarkable skills both now and then.
Carey’s foil to Grimm’s entourage of eccentric individuals is perfect—letting the jokes build more and more with mounting frustration as his murder investigation is thwarted at every turn. Several delightful moments ensue as Carey stifles his laughter in response to his co-star’s antics; audiences live for moments like these!
Grimm personifies each character so thoroughly and with such skill that without a word being spoken, one can easily identify the suspect he’s portraying. Grimm’s popping in and out of characters is truly a performance not to be missed.
Grimm, whose characters vary in age and gender, physically and vocally showcases his range as a performer. His portrayal of Dahlia, the wife of the murder victim, embodies the physicality of a middle-aged woman, coupled with an accent and attitude of a Southern belle who is past her prime. Audiences will hold their sides laughing when Grimm, as Dahlia, finally gets to perform her “big number.” He also brings equally funny humor to Steph, whose antics become increasingly intrepid, coy and lovable.
The two stars of the show are matched measure for measure and while each have standout solo moments, the true enjoyment comes from their combined and kindred talents in the unique niche that is musical theatre piano comedy. Their affinity for each other and this genre is spotlighted in the song, “A Friend Like You.”
The set, skillfully designed by Scott Davis, is beautifully cluttered with a variety of living room objects surrounding a baby grand piano. As the mystery unfolds, it is clear that the cluttered objects strewn about all serve as props for the majority of Grimm’s “suspects.” Davis also cleverly designed a number of hidden-in-plain-sight tricks that serve as gags throughout, including an early, splendid reveal that the stage fully rotates at times throughout the performance. The rotating stage also gives the audience different angles of the actors to witness their incredible talents at the piano as they take turns (or simultaneously) accompanying each other.
Director Scott Weinstein returns to Blair and Kinosian’s clever book, lyrics and music after having directed one of the first runs in the show’s early stages. His direction keeps the show fast paced, clocking in at a brisk hour and a half, and still leaves time for the actors to ride the waves of the audience’s laughter. Weinstein’s staging craftily and continually guides Carey and Grimm to and from the piano while still making it feel like natural conversation and movement.
Grab a group of friends and head to the Marriott Theatre for this wonderful production of Murder for Two.
Marriott Theatre presents “Murder for Two” through August 26 at Ten Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. More information and tickets are available here.