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Review: Review: MURDER BALLAD IS A SHOW TO DIE FOR at PRIMA Theatre

now on stage in Lancaster

Review: Review: MURDER BALLAD IS A SHOW TO DIE FOR at PRIMA Theatre When a show starts off with an opening number that informs you that someone will die during the evening, and there are only four cast members, the imagination runs wild. Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash premiered MURDER BALLAD ten years ago at Manhattan Theatre Club and it hasn't, at least as yet, aged a day. Night clubs, the perils of cell phones unanswered, worrying over your small children, threatening exes, they're all part of the immediate perils of modern life - much more familiar to us on a daily basis than the question of whether the cook or the butler put the arsenic in the soup tureen, and just why Cousin Bertrand had no ill effect from it.

The characters are a narrator, Sara, Michael, and Tom. Not just an omniscient third party, the narrator is in the cast, and works behind the bar at a downtown club. It's outside of there that Sara, a transplant to New York, breaks off with her drunk boyfriend Tom and meets nice guy poetry student Michael at the subway stop. The rest, as they say, is history. Parts are predictable - that Sara and Michael will marry and end up on the Upper East Side is one of them: other parts are not so predictable. It's a tough watch in parts - the show is not without clearly implied domestic violence - but it establishes the story. This is not an Agatha Christie, where the first act leads to a murder that must be solved in the third act. Its not like the "Columbo style" of having the murder up front and watching everyone else work their way to what the audience already knows. The murder falls in place after a sequence of event in which the audience will come to see that someone - though not necessarily which character - will be removed as an obstacle to another one's life.

Alyssa Wray, a former "American Idol" contestant, starts out belting the sordid facts of the opening, and sings spectacularly throughout, to the bloody conclusion of the tale. Handsome, thoroughly rotten Tom is here portrayed by Connor Bond, who's both charming and menacing at the same time when he's sober, which is definitely not always. Joshua Kramer Keefer, no stranger to Lancaster audiences or the PRIMA stage, is utterly convincing as Michael, who tries hard to put the lie to the idea that nice guys finish last... but how far can love and a sweet temper go? Are there hard limits to love? Rita Castagna is Sara, the subject of Tom's obsession and Michael's patience, carries the show as the woman in the middle, afraid of being too happy and afraid that happiness doesn't last, but equally afraid of falling back into an unhappy and unhealthy past. The four, basically all in front of the entire audience for the entire show, are a tight and virtually seamless ensemble, directed by Elizabeth Lucas and, more particularly, choreographed through all of their movement by Kristin Pontz. Every movement in the show is fitted to its music.

This isn't a musical you'll likely go home humming; It's neither that sort of musical nor that sort of music. But the songs and music are solid in the way that is needed to carry this sort of show forward, and it's a riveting watch to work out just who is the most likely victim and why their murderer chose the specific time to do it. What seems obvious just may not be.

PRIMA is a small theatre so get your tickets before you're cut dead. There are people dying to see this, and you should be on that list of people. Don't wait for the last minute - you'll miss all the fun.

Visit primatheatre.com for tickets and information. The show runs through April 9 only, so get tickets now. While this is not a well known show in the area, its by far the single most interesting show on stage this or next month in Lancaster. Be there.

 



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From This Author - Marakay Rogers