The mystery masquerading as a musical comedy — or should that be the other way around? — is a small but thriving niche in theater, thanks to recent shows like “Clue” and “Curtains.”
Totem Pole Playhouse, in the third production of its 68th season, is following this trend with “Murder for Two,” a witty and tuneful homage to old-fashioned murder mysteries created in 2011 by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair.
Totem Pole’s production of “Murder for Two,” which opened last weekend and continues through July 22 at the professional summer stock theater in Caledonia State Park, features a pair of actors who combine to play multiple roles — and the piano — in this raucous one-act show.
Gavin Rohrer plays Marcus Moscowicz, a small-town policeman who dreams of being a great detective, while Eric Shorey plays all of the suspects in a murder Rohrer is attempting to solve. Clayton Phillips directs.
Shorey is reprising the role — or more correctly, roles — he recently performed at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Rohrer most recently starred as Jerry Lee Lewis in a production of “Million Dollar Quartet” at the Actors Theatre of Indiana.
In its review of the play, The New York Times called “Murder for Two” a “snazzy double-act that spins out a comic mystery animated by funny, deftly turned songs.”
Another show from the ripening musical comedy-mystery genre, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” is coming to Allenberry Playhouse in September.
Another audience favorite, the unmusical comedy mystery, will launch Theatre Harrisburg’s 2018-19 season.
Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” is a wildly farcical take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” featuring five actors portraying more than 40 characters.
Ludwig, a York County native, has scored many Broadway hits, including the Tony-winning “Lend Me a Tenor” and the hilarious “Moon Over Buffalo.” He added this wacky take on Sherlock Holmes to his resume in 2015.
“Baskerville” will be staged Sept. 7-16 at the community theater’s uptown Krevsky Center.
As has become the norm for Theatre Harrisburg in recent years, four of its six shows in the 2018-19 will be at the Krevsky Center, while two large-scale musicals, “Newsies” (Nov. 2-18) and “Avenue Q” (April 26-May 12) will be produced at the downtown Whitaker Center.
The other three shows at Krevsky will be the musical revue “Oh Joy! Oh Rapture” (Jan. 18-27), the searing religious drama “Doubt” (March 8-17) and the domestic comedy “Sylvia” (June 14-23).
For the past quarter century, the serious professional actors at Gamut Theatre Group have been donning pig noses, curl-toed slippers and various ridiculous costumes to entertain Harrisburg area children as the Popcorn Hat Players.
“So much of children’s entertainment is on TV, movie, and computer screens, provided to our kids by strangers,” Gamut Board President Brad Winnick said. ‘Popcorn Hat Players are real, live and interactive. They engage our children from the stage and make themselves available to the kids in the classroom and the community.”
Troupe members are also quite versatile as performers. They may be acting in an adult production of a Shakespearean tragedy at night before turning their attention to complete silliness the following morning. Popcorn Hat Players are best known for their often-anachronistic adaptations of classic fairly tales such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella and “The Three Little Pigs.”
Many of the adaptations have been created by the members of the troupe.
In honor of Popcorn Hat Players’ 25 years of service to arts for the young, Gamut is offering a one-night-only celebration of the company at its theater, 15 N. Fourth St. in Harrisburg. “Once Upon a Time: 25 Years of Popcorn Hat Players” starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, with tickets at $15.
The evening will offer excerpts from Popcorn Hat classics, as well as some new stories, performed by both current and former members of the troupe.