Dates &
Rosalind Plowright John Pohlhammer





Two's a real crowd pleaser

Theatregoers and music buffs were treated to a rare and truly unforgettable evening last Saturday at the Dukes Playhouse. The Lancaster theatre put on the first performance of a new musical comedy Two's a Crowd written by John Pohlhammer and Graeme Davies. Opera star Rosalind Plowright and West End actor, John Pohlhammer brought down the house with virtuoso performances. Rosalind Plowright is famous for her international career as an opera singer where she has sung leading roles in the world's greatest opera houses. But this show revealed another side of her extraordinary talent. The theatre (in this case the Dukes) had accidentally booked a world-class opera Diva and a famous Jazz Singer to appear on the same night. This creates an ideal vehicle for high emotion, confrontation, surprise, comedy and a delightful succession of arias and popular songs in an original and totally enjoyable show. Plowright's voice was at its legendary best, full of colour and strength. In the popular Carmen arias, her Romanza and huge outcry as she uses Wagner to condemn her rival, she shone. But this was no ordinary recital. John Pohlhammer as the Jazz Singer saw to that. From his opening line to the last he engaged his audience with a stream of masterful one-liners, and some wonderful jazz standards.


Best known for appearances in the West End with the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Chicago-born Pohlhammer combines both wit and a considerable musical talent. He uses his cool persona to subvert the remonstrations of his 'posh' rival, gradually manoeuvring her by a mixture of smooth talk and Jack Daniels to a point where she launches upon an extraordinary raunchy number ' Nobody does it like me'. Part of this shows unique brilliance must be attributed to the new material composed by song and lyric writer, Graeme Davies' He has written ten original numbers of impressive virtuosity. Of these, 'On the wings of Song' is surely one of the best compositions to appear in a new musical for many years. It provided a pivotal, poignant moment making it hard to hold back the tears. Both performers were superbly supported by their respective pianists Paul Knight and Sean Whittle and with choreography by Vanessa Slacke, the evening turned out to be a triumph for the whole company.

(Anthony George - Lancaster Guardian)


What's on Stage Review

With swing music immortalised by Robbie Williams and opera currently accessible thanks to major tours of Sweeney Todd and Carmen, Two's a Crowd has opened at just the right time.

It is one hour before curtain up. A Jazz Singer (John Pohlhammer) arrives with his pianist for a sound check, immediately followed by an Opera Diva (Rosalind Plowright) who enters and does the same thing. The artist and the artiste have been double-booked, prompting an entertaining on-stage battle, rooted in song and riddled with humour to keep you smiling while you're humming.

Star and co-creator Pohlhammer also turns his hand here to directing, lending this unique musical comedy liberal amounts of style and urgency that more than make up for a slim plot. As a device to unite two contrasting musical genres, the narrative serves its most straightforward purpose but is otherwise daft and lightweight - at least on paper. It's to the immense credit of the two performers that the overall effect is stunning rather than stilted.

Rosalind Plowright overacts a treat as the Opera Diva partial to lemon tea and histrionics. The emotional range in her voice leaves you breathless and tearful. She also interacts with great ease, good humour and intimacy with the audience - a most welcome surprise for anyone who has only previously viewed Plowright through opera glasses up in the gods.

Pohlhammer fashions his character as the personification of the swing music he croons - likeable, laid back and highly accessible. His one-liner comebacks during spats with 'the diva' are priceless, while his ability to ad lib makes his banter even more personal to the audience on the night. Not that he seeks to upstage in any way, given his familiarity with the piece, as its author - he doesn't need to hog the material, instead allowing Plowright her equal share of the limelight which culminates in a fantastic duet where the two voices meet and blend with perfection.

Musically, the likes of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin" and Mozart's "Don Giovanni Serenade" are juxtaposed with new material by Graeme Davies. And, thanks again to the strength of the performers and solid direction, the effect is mesmerising .

On the night I attended, the small but appreciative audience loved this great musical comedy - it deserves to fill theatres for its sheer energy alone but it's got everything else going for it, too.

Glenn Meads (reviewed at The Lowry in Salford)


Two's a Crowd, Lyceum

GRAEME Davies' musical comedy was as good as it promised to be though, inevitably, it flirts briefly with send-up on occasion, considerably more so at one stage. Locked in her dressing room by the famous jazz singer - "locked in A flat", he says - during the inter- val, the famous diva escapes and vents her fury on him with Ortrud's Curse from Wagner's Lohengrin. The colloquial, earthy English translation on the surtitle board which descended for it had nothing to do with Wagner's words. Still, it was very funny. The only really contentious aspect is the opera singer succumbing to the jazz singer in the 'battle' of styles at the end, the triumph being achieved by plying her with whisky. Having said that, this particular prima donna can rattle off a vampish Nobody Does It Like Me (Cole- man) as convincingly as she can seductive arias from Bizet's Carmen, Saint-Saens' Samson and Delilah and operatic curses. Rosalind Plowright was every inch a great interna- tional opera diva. With a flair for acting and comedy, she was in terrific voice and brought the house down more than once, not just in operatic numbers.
Don Giovanni's Serenade, Deh Vieni Alla Finestra (Mozart), was the only opera the jazz singer attempted and, to some extent, he tended to come over as the stooge in a double act, despite hilarious one-liners. Ostensibly, the show is about two big egos clash- ing but the multi-talented John Pohlhammer, while singing Porter, Gershwin and co with easy-going, authentic feel, played him as a laid-back character - more Bing Crosby than Frank Sinatra. He was also the show's director and co-writer with Graeme Davies, whose original songs worked extremely well and the two pianists, Paul Knight (classical) and Sean Whittle (jazz), were outstanding.

BemardLee (Sheffield Telegraph, Friday, November 22, 2002)