A MUSIC COMEDY IN TWO
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.
George - Lancaster Guardian)
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
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)
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.
(Sheffield Telegraph, Friday, November