No, its creators insist, it’s not “a musical comedy” but “a comedy musical.”
TWO’S A CROWD’s collaborators have in fact chosen the right term. Bookwriters Martin Bergman and Rita Rudner as well as their composer-lyricist Jason Feddy can be congratulated for truth-in-advertising; comedy is indeed their first order of business.
The musical part of the evening comes in a very distant second.
If one judges a comedy by the number of lines that make an audience laugh, TWO’S A CROWD is extraordinarily successful. There are dozens of knee-slappers in this two-act farce.
An older man laments that the younger woman he’s been dating believes that “there are six Beatles: John, Paul, George, Ringo, Lennon and McCartney.” An older woman says “Everything’s a silly word nowadays. Google. Yelp. Yahoo. These used to be things people said when they were having a stroke.”
Frankly, the “comedy musical” would be better served as a comedy period. Much of the time Feddy, who’s also the show’s bandleader, simply steps out and sings a song that comments what we’ve just seen. He uses a hyper-masculine gravelly voice that’s meant to say “Hey, don’t think I’m a sissy just ‘cause I’m singin’.”
None of Feddy’s songs carries any information we need to hear; virtually every one is a time-waster. And if you’re assuming that the songs are there to amuse us through scene changes, no. When we go from a bedroom to a second location, set designer Tessa Ann Bookwalter’s turntable does the trick before one of Feddy’s songs has even finished its third line.
Rudner plays Wendy Solomon, a wedding planner whose marriage has just passed a silver anniversary. Sad to say, the silver hair under her dye job has sent her husband into the arms of a younger woman.
Robert Yacko is Tom McManus, a retired electrical contractor whose wife was killed in an accident. That each is no longer with a spouse is the only thing they have in common.
Wendy, Tom or both get the occasional song. About halfway through the show, one of them comes downstage and delivers and out-and-out soliloquy. Why weren’t these speeches musicalized?
Maybe it’s all for the best, for Feddy doesn’t care about rhyming. “Love” is paired with “enough,” “himself” with “else,” “first” with “worse” and “new” with “room.”
And all these show up in the first song. Many other ear-assaulters will follow even in effective numbers: “If Only,” a what-might-have been ditty; an eleven o’clock number whose title should be kept secret so as not to spoil the fun. (Feddy gave this one a nice melody.)
Despite all of Bergman and Rudner’s funny one-liners, their script is hampered by their utterly unbelievable premise. Wendy and Tom have both checked into a Las Vegas hotel only to find that they’ve been given keys to the same room. With this hotel and all the others booked because of the poker tournament — which is what brought Tom here — the two will be forced to share the room.
No, such a “solution” would never even be suggested. Two total strangers occupying the same space? Who knows what one might do to the other? The hotel would be liable for a lawsuit that would make Apple vs. Microsoft seem like a civilized debate. But the “Vice-President of Hotel Operations” assures Wendy and Tom that “Hey, it’s Vegas; happens all the time.”
It actually doesn’t but this “comedy musical” needs them to be together or there’d be no show. So they’ll remain in that room, not just oil-and-water to each other but more like oil spills and polluted water.
You may expect that over the next 100 minutes they’re going to find common ground and fall in love. No, Bergman (who also directed adequately) and Rudner spare us that. Give them credit for finding a better solution after that shaky set-up.
In between, however, comes another impossible-to-believe situation. Tom, determined to do better at poker this year than last year, is eliminated in his first game. “People were laughing and pointing at me as I walked out,” he mourns.
He’s mortified, but he shouldn’t be, for he had a full house. That his opponent’s four threes sent him to defeat is lamentable, but there’s no disgrace in betting big when you have three of a kind and a pair. Very few hands will beat that. Onlookers would have offered sympathy, not sneers. If Bergman and Rudner needed Tom to lose and be humiliated, they should have had him make a beginner’s mistake.
As a performer, Rudner still has her impeccable comic timing that has made her a star on the stand-up circuit. Her singing voice, however, will keep her on the comedy “concert” trail and not the musical one.
Yacko does the job as do Brian Lohmann and Kelly Holden Bashar in multiple roles. Bashar gets the best song of the night: “Lili’s Lament,” in which she relates the sorry life of a hotel maid.
Maybe Bergman, Rudner and Feddy wanted to create what they truly believe is a new form via the “comedy musical.” Or maybe Rudner and Bergman called in Feddy because they know that sex comedies – once a Broadway staple — have disappeared from New York stages. They can’t be found in summer stock playhouses, mostly because those barely exist anymore.
The facts show that since A CHORUS LINE opened 44 years ago, Broadway has seen it and 69 other musicals run over 1,000 performances while not a single sex comedy has. Bergman, Rudner and Feddy may well have assumed that adding songs would get them bigger audiences.
Alas, they’ll have to do better to make that happen. Tom had a full house, but if TWO’S A CROWD went to Broadway, it would rarely have one.