Harlequin to reopen with ingenious musical comedy 

Harlequin Productions presents Murder for Two, with book by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, music by Joe Kinosian, and lyrics by Kellen Blair, March 11 – April 2, 2022, at the State Theater in downtown Olympia, WA. Corey McDaniel will direct.

They put the laughter in manslaughter! In this hilarious 90-minute musical comedy, 2 performers play 13 roles—not to mention the piano—in a witty and winking homage to old-fashioned murder mysteries.

A small-town police officer dreams of making it to detective – and one fateful night, the opportunity arrives in the form of a dead Great American Novelist. One actor investigates, the other plays every suspect, and both play the piano. It’s the perfect blend of music, mayhem, and murder!

Seattle-based Jon Lutyens and formerly Seattle, now London-based Katherine Strohmaier star in this fast-paced production filled with what Lutyens calls “piano acrobatics.” Both have the unique qualifications of being both musical theater actors and excellent pianists. The two have been friends for several years and were even housemates for a period. In a promotional interview hosted by Porcupine Media, both were asked how this close relationship will bolster the show. Strohmaier said, “No matter what happens, and things are going to happen – things that are planned and many things I’m sure that are not planned – I trust that we’ll be there to pick things up for each other.” Added Lutyens, “I mean, not to compare us to these people, but if you look at any of the acting partners like Bogie and Bacall or Hepburn and Tracy, or even Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, those people that work together all the time…I think that if you don’t get along then it’s so much harder. Especially with comedy, because in comedy you have to open up the lid on what you’re doing and tinker with it together…And I’m not comparing us to any of those really great comedic teams!”

While this is Lutyens’ first Harlequin production, Strohmaier may be familiar to Harlequin audiences as the star of another recent two-person musical, The Last Five Years (2016). In that production, she and Artistic Director Aaron Lamb also played the piano throughout. While Lamb was preparing the 2021-2022 season, Strohmaier texted Lamb that she and Lutyens had joked about pitching Murder for Two. (Lutyens had understudied the 2017 ACT production.) Lamb recalls, “I texted her back, ‘That will work. When are you available?’ She answered, ‘Oh God.'” He continues, “It is unique to find people who have the ability to do [a show like] this. I happen to know those people. And now those people are learning not to joke with me.”

In his Director’s Notes regarding the production, Corey McDaniel writes, “Being in the rehearsal room with Katherine and Jon has been a true and unique gift. Witnessing these two very skilled actors and musicians dissect and execute the rapid-fire changes of thought, characters, physicality, and a multitude of key changes was thrilling.” He adds, “Generally speaking, what I love most about theatre is our opportunity to gather as a community and reflect on what it means to be within the human experience.” Or as Lutyens puts it, “It’s going to be 90 minutes of high-energy, non-stop distraction from the world that we’re in!”