Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, closes its 87th season with the madcap musical whodunit “Murder for Two” with book and lyrics by Kellen Blair and book and music by Joe Kinosian. Everyone is a suspect in this fast-paced musical mystery featuring 13 characters, two actors and one piano! “Murder for Two” runs for six weeks, starting September 7 through October 16 and is generously sponsored by Alibi Marina & Harbor Guest House and Door County Medical Center with support from The Cordon Family Foundation.
Officer Marcus Moscowicz seizes the moment when a famous novelist is killed at his own birthday party, and all of the other detectives are out of town. Marcus jumps at the chance to interview the extravagant and outlandish suspects in an attempt to solve the crime before his superior arrives. This 90-minute side-splitting, mile-a-minute whodunit is loaded with killer laughs, sly winks and dual pianists!
Creators Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair met at a BMI workshop for musical theater composers. Both collaborators are fans of 1930s screwball comedies, so the pair retreated to Kinosian’s family home in Door County to create a full book musical that only needed two actors and a piano under the premise “what if the Marx Brothers did an Agatha Christie story?” “Murder for Two” went on to win the 2011 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical, and the pair were recently nominated for the same award for their new work, “It Came From Outer Space,” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater with Universal Theatrical Group.
“I wanted it (the musical) to have a ‘neo-vaudeville’ feel,” Kinosian said in an interview. “‘Murder for Two’ is designed to be a rip-roaring good time: a lot of laughs, a lot of goofiness and some truth in it as well.” The tour-de-force four-hand duet by Harpo and Chico Marx in the 1941 film “The Big Store” highly influenced Blair and Kinosian. The result was a one-act, 90-minute musical romp with no intermission.
The creators’ focused use of the piano throughout the musical requires the two-person cast, David Corlew and Kirsten Salpini, to be both musicians and actors. Corlew (“Ripcord”) is a multi-instrumentalist, actor and a former duo trapeze porter. His performance in Door County this autumn will be his third reprisal of the musical, and his first time portraying Officer Moscowicz. Corlew’s work has been seen at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee and the Actors Theatre of Indiana. Salpini, who makes her Peninsula Players Theatre debut as the The Suspects, is a singer, songwriter, music director, actor and a dueling pianist with the Flying Ivories. She has performed worldwide with theater companies and cruise lines such as Holland America and Carnival. Her regional credits include “The Donkey Show” at American Repertory Theater and “Murder for Two” at Lyric Stage Company of Boston (IRNE nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Musical).
This multi-talented pair is under the direction of Melanie Keller and the music direction of Malcolm Ruhl, both Peninsula Players Theatre veterans. Keller, who performed in the theater’s past productions of “Salvage” and “The Fox on the Fairway,” makes her Door County directorial debut. As the Associate Artistic Director of First Folio Theatre, Keller directed “Mary’s Wedding” and “Silent Sky” and acted in more than 10 productions. At Oak Park Festival Theatre, she directed “The Amish Project” and “Much Ado About Nothing.” With Signal Ensemble Theatre, she directed the Joseph Jefferson-nominated “The Drowning Girls.” Ruhl, who was the music director and pianist of Peninsula Players Theatre’s 2014 production of “Always…Patsy Cline,” is the recipient of two Joseph Jefferson awards. He has served as music director for productions at Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Northlight Theatre, American Blues Theater, Drury Lane Theatre, Theatre at the Center, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, American Theater Company, Mercury Theater Chicago, Apollo Theater Chicago and Apple Tree Theatre.
The “Murder for Two” creative team includes scenic designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec, a three-time Joseph Jefferson award-winning designer, whose earlier work at the theater consists of “Ghost The Musical” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Stephen Roy White, a Joseph Jefferson nominated lighting designer, whose fifty-plus productions at the theater-in-a-garden include productions of “Talley’s Folly,” “Romance in D” and “Silent Sky.” Rounding out the team are Uriel Gómez, costume designer, and Joseph Palermo, sound designer, both of whom make their Door County debuts. Gómez, an artistic associate at Teatro Vista and a Joseph Jefferson-nominated costume designer, is an ALTA Award recipient. Palermo, the resident sound designer at The Cape Playhouse, is in his seventh season of collaborating on “The Polar Express” with Warner Brothers and Amtrak.
The audience pavilion’s side panels, doors and vents will remain open throughout the autumn. Patrons should dress for the weather and be prepared for shifting temperatures and breezes off the bay. For the most current safety protocols employed at the theater, visit www.peninsulaplayers.com before attending a performance.
Individual, student and group tickets are available. Tickets are available online up to curtain time or by phoning or visiting the Box Office during business hours. Peninsula Players Theatre is a smoke-free campus. Smoking is prohibited on the grounds at all times. “Murder for Two” performs Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:00 p.m., except for Sundays, September 11, 18, 25 and October 16 at 2:00 p.m. To make reservations for groups of 15 or more, please phone the Box Office on weekdays between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. at (920) 868-3287. The theater and its offices are closed on Mondays. For more information, visit www.peninsulaplayers.com