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Chris Bundy & Kate Henderson. Photo: Theatreworks of So In.
Two by Two
Book by Peter Stone
Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Music by Richard Rodgers
Directed by Chris Bundy
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2018, by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
I can honestly say that Broadway’s musical Two by Two was new to me, as was the TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana company. As I love to be introduced to productions and theater groups that are unfamiliar to me, I got two for the price of one. I know there has to be a joke in there somewhere!
If you are unfamiliar with the show, Two by Two is based on Clifford Odetts’ play, The Flowering Peach. I am sure that you can infer what the musical is about: Noah and his preparation of the Ark that will save his family and animals of the World while God creates the Great Flood.
The show appeared on Broadway in 1970 to mixed reviews. Having experienced it now, I can see why. While the cast did a fantastic job of keeping the dialogue conversational and spritely, I believe it was a case of making due with what the script offered. Despite a few pointed giggles here and there, I wasn’t wowed by Peter Stone’s book. I thank the cast for adding their own spins and improv takes throughout the show, namely Chris Bundy as Noah.
Many of us are familiar with Richard Rodgers’ music from classics such as Carousel, Pal Joey, and many others. While Two by Two doesn’t have a song list that we all know by heart almost 50 years later, the songs it does have to blend with the story (“Two by Two”) and even tug at the heartstrings (“Hey Girlie”). The best singing of the evening came from Josh O’Brien (Shem), Neil Brewer (Ham), Will Smith (Japheth), and Mr. Bundy in the barbershop quartet closing of “You Have Got to Have a Rudder on the Ark”. That was perhaps some of the best harmonizing that I’ve heard in a great while.
By and large, the acting and singing were pretty even across the board.
Let’s begin with Colleen McGuirk’s Goldie. Her “The Golden Ram” was right where it needed to be on the top but lagged in delivery on the bottom. I did enjoy her flirtatiousness with Ham. Megan Kubac’s unhappy Rachel was nicely matched with Neil Brewer’s cad-like Ham. I appreciated Jessica Kayrouz Ray’s interpretation of Leah, who was equally as greedy as her husband Shem. Her reactions to being overlooked or her fussing at her husband were spot on. Mr. O’Brien certainly did play Shem up, as the older brother who got everything and made sure that his siblings knew it. While Kate Henderson had a few missed notes and some intonation problems a couple of times, I enjoyed her turn as Noah’s loving wife Esther.
Mr. Bundy and Mr. Smith get the lion’s share of the lines and songs. Mr. Smith’s Japheth was just the right touch of cynical “teenager” and cautious adult and has a nice voice that played well for the role and the house. Artistic Director Chris Bundy knows the role of Noah inside and out, but his accent would change every now and then. Also, I have to ask, were you channeling Jack Benny a little bit? Some of your mannerisms reminded me of him.
Mr. Bundy was also the director, and his stagecraft was very clever. In the first act the setting looked like a hut one would see in the desert or on a beach, but in the second act, it quickly converted into the gopher wood Ark top deck. Great job by the stagehands in getting the conversion done so quickly and efficiently. I might have made the hut/Ark housing’s landing space a little wider. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of room for error.
The able hands of Cathy Ryan accompanied the troupe on the keyboard, along with bassist Jack Meisburg under the musical direction Hannegan Roseberry. While the keyboard was perfect for the small space I could barely detect the bass save for hearing the sound of the string being plucked here and there.
Speaking of small space, the theater of TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana is cozy. The front row is less than a yard away from the stage. Aside from the tiny space, they have a lovely area upstairs where one can purchase delicious desserts and enjoy a glass of wine during intermission.
Two by Two
TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana
203 E. Main Street
New Albany, In 47150
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.