Whodunit? Murder and Madcap Hit the Mainstage

by Rebecca Leap

Arthur Whitney is dead, and everyone is a suspect.

Thus begins Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair’s madcap musical mystery, Murder For Two, the second show to hit FST’s Mainstage this Summer. When famed author Whitney is shot down at a surprise party gone very wrong, it’s up to officer Marcus Moscowitz to sniff out the killer.

Could it be Barette Lewis, the prima ballerina hiding a secret? What about the bickering couple from next door? Or even Whitney’s widow herself? The stakes are high, as solving the murder is all that stands between Moscowitz and his dream of finding glory as a “real” detective. It’s a classic whodunit tale with one very important exception… all of the suspects are played by just one actor.

Taking on the artistic challenge of playing all ten suspects is Kyle Branzel, a newcomer to FST. No stranger to the wacky world of Murder For Two, Branzel has previously worn the many hats of The Suspects both at Weston Playhouse and on the show’s first national tour. Branzel’s suspects will be joined by FST alumnus Paul Helm as upstart investigator Marcus Moscowitz. Helm returns to Sarasota after his turn as Musical Director for the 2015 cabaret Never Marry a Girl with Cold Feet: and Other Life Lessons from Vaudeville. Like his co-star, Helm has also previously performed in Murder For Two, having played the role of Moscowitz in 2016 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. One might think it would be difficult to face up with an actor playing so many roles, but Helm views it as a unique opportunity. “I truly feed off each and every change of the suspects,” he explains, “I never think of it as one actor playing multiple roles, but much more like ten different actors on stage with me.”

Returning to Sarasota for his sixth production at FST, Director Bruce Jordan can’t wait to collaborate with Helm and Branzel. Since both have performed the show previously, Jordan hopes their experience with the material will enhance FST’s production. “During the rehearsal process, I hope we will discover what worked for each of them in previous productions and play to that strength,” Jordan says. Those strengths will certainly include comedic chops—something Jordan has plenty of experience with as an original adaptor of the long-running smash Shear Madness. And he knows just how to handle Murder For Two’s specific brand of hijinks. “It’s my job to make sure that the audience follows the action easily and clearly and that we maintain a high percentage of the laughs,” Jordan explains. “The authors have set up the jokes and the story, the actors just need to play it as if it’s life and death and not for laughs.”

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