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BWW Review: Timmons Edwards Detects The Best in MURDER FOR TWO

Timmons Edwards detects the best in The Phoenix Theatre Company's MURDER FOR TWO, featuring Seth Tucker and Toby Yatso ~ through February 28th

BWW Review: Timmons Edwards Detects The Best in MURDER FOR TWOBWW Review: Timmons Edwards Detects The Best in MURDER FOR TWOBWW Review: Timmons Edwards Detects The Best in MURDER FOR TWO

BWW Review: Timmons Edwards Detects The Best in MURDER FOR TWO

You know the old phrase, a match made in heaven! Well, if there's a theatrical equivalent, it's on display at The Phoenix Theatre Company where the artistry and versatility of two of the region's finest actors are on display in MURDER FOR TWO, the award-winning musical known for its noir-like spoofery and whodunit mystery.

For the review of this production, we are delighted and privileged to feature the perspective of Lynn Timmons Edwards, well-known throughout Arizona for her popular themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook, her short plays, and her reviews for Cabaret Scene.

From the pen of Lynn Timmons Edwards:

What happens when a world class theatre keeps the lights on, creating a comfortable and safe outdoor space during a world-wide pandemic? First, they hire top talent, securing the first Actor's Equity contracts in the state of Arizona and give them a murder mystery musical comedy that premiered at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2011 and was last performed in Phoenix (Arizona Theatre Company) six years ago.

Welcome to MURDER FOR TWO, book and music by Joe Kinosian and book and lyrics by Kellen Blair.

The primary cast of two features Seth Tucker as officer Marcus Moscowicz, would-be detective trying to solve the murder of American novelist, Arthur Whitney. His talented counterpart, Toby Yatso plays all the suspects.

The show would not be complete without the presence of Lou, portrayed by Musical Director Kevin White, a character with no lines who provides excellent piano accompaniment and is the proverbial "good listener" as the story plays out.

In her directorial debut, Michelle Chin created the perfect amount of staging and choreography and mostly just let Tucker and Yatso explore their characters, calling upon the talent and training that makes them among the most sought-after Arizona-based talent.

The show started ten minutes late, but the pre-show music set the tone with instrumentals ranging from mystery film scoring to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." It wrapped with a jazz arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby" that made me think, "is this a clue?"

Kudos to Stage Designer Robert Kovach and Lighting/Video Designer Kristen Peterson and the rest of the production crew who mounted the professional look we have come to expect from The Phoenix Theatre Company.

What starts out as a fast-paced Yatso sashaying between characters that seem too complex to grasp evolves into a clear storyline:

Moscowicz is a man on a mission: solve the murder, get a promotion to detective and, although he may not realize it, open his heart again to love. The "cast" has gathered for a surprise birthday party for Whitney, who unfortunately is shot in the forehead upon his entrance. His wife, Dahlia, is our hostess who seems more concerned with who stole the ice cream than her husband's demise. Dr. Griff is the gruff psychiatrist. Barb and Murray Flandon are Whitney's long-time neighbors. Barrette Lewis, to whom Moscowicz finds himself attracted, is a self-incriminating ballerina giving Yatso the opportunity to show off his Tommy Tune moves. Steph Whitney is the young niece hoping to help solve the crime to complete her master's thesis in Criminal Justice. And just when you think "this is too many characters for one actor," who should appear but three members of a boys choir hired to sing at the party ~ Timmy, Yonkers, and Skid, all acted, sung, and danced on Yatso's knees! Remember, if you need them, "just put your lips together and blow."

One of Yatso's best numbers features the three boys on "A Lot Woise." Yatso also puts it all out there when Mrs. Whitney finally sings "Steppin' Out of the Shadows." The cherry on the ten-character sundae is a funny non-sequitur scene in which Yatso sings and plays the piano as firefighter, "Henry Vivaldi."

Tucker reminds us what a great entertainer he is right off the bat with the song, "Protocol Says" and is in lock step with Yatso on duets like "So What if I Did" and "Process of Elimination." The campy "A Friend Like You" is the most fun song and dance number.

The duo has incredible energy on stage and a rapport that goes back to their days in school at Arizona State University where Yatso is now a part of the music theatre faculty.

Why is Murray Flandon sure "It Was Her," accusing his wife of the crime? Who was most afraid of Whitney's upcoming novel, All of Them Bananas? "Who was having an affair?" It would not be advisable for a reviewer to give away any plot secrets, so the reader will have to see the show to find out not only "who dun it?" but even more importantly "who did steal Mrs. Whitney's ice cream?"

MURDER FOR TWO is an actor's vehicle and light entertainment perfect for these times. It is not likely to end up in the Library of Congress as great American musical theater, but it is fun and definitely a great way to venture back into a safe place to see live theatre at its best.

MURDER FOR TWO runs through February 28th at the Company's new socially-distanced outdoor venue, located in the gardens of the Central United Methodist Church, a half-block north of the theatre's three-stage campus.

The outdoor staging of the show maintains COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Photo credit to Reg Madison Photography

The Phoenix Theatre Company ~ ~ 602-254-2151

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From This Author Herbert Paine