|Thursday, May 4, 1995
Ventura West Edition / Section: Ventura County
Rodgers' Musical 'Two by Two' One of Ottavio's Best Shows;
Witty, amusing story of Noah and his family may be the dinner
theater's finest moment.
|By: TODD EVERETT|
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
| All but ignored when it debuted in 1970, and little more than a historical footnote today, |
"Two by Two" deserves wider attention. The musical, one of composer Richard Rodgers' last,
is currently playing at Ottavio's Banquet Facility in Camarillo. Directed to maximum effect
by Rex Waggoner, it's one of the best productions in the dinner theater's history--maybe the
Based on a mid-'50s play by Clifford Odets, "Two by Two" recasts the Biblical story of Noah
and his family, before, during and directly following the Flood. Noah and his wife, Esther,
have three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Shem and Ham are married to the shrewish Leah
and gentle Rachel, respectively; Japheth is, to the dismay of his mother, single.
As the play opens, Noah--much to his surprise--is visited by God, who orders him to build an
ark and load it with his family and animals, "two by two." Which puts Japheth at risk, unless
he can find a wife, fast. The show's witty book is by Peter Stone, who also wrote "1776."
Lyrics are by Martin Charnin, who would later supply the words for "Annie." Stone uses the
device of his hero chatting with God that had worked so well in 1964's "Fiddler on the Roof."
Noah's family is amusingly dysfunctional ("a miser, a loafer and a philosopher" as he
characterizes his progeny). There's even an implicit serious note, as Japheth (the
philosopher) chides his father for trusting God to pull him through, instead of using the tools
that God had given him and doing the work himself.
Word was that Danny Kaye, who created the role of Noah on Broadway, compensated for a
relatively weak property by ad-libbing lines and generally taking over. This reportedly
infuriated Rodgers (and probably the rest of the cast), though the show ran for nearly a year
on Broadway in 1970 and 1971.
Danny Kaye isn't starring in the Ottavio's production, and presumably Don Pearlman sticks
closer to Stone's original script. It's a lot of fun anyway, with good gags and relationships
that most should be able to identify with. While Charnin's lyrics aren't terrific, they're
serviceable, and Rodgers' score is a nice surprise--more wide-ranging than most of his earlier
shows, and including gospel and operetta parodies. Eleanor Brand co-stars as Esther with
Jim Barker, Kevin P. Kern and Jim Harlow as Shem, Ham and Japheth. Arlene Weisenberg
and Susan Burns portray Leah and Rachel, with Rebecca Hanes very funny as the coquettish
courtesan Goldie, who appears nude at the Temple of the Ram ("That's reform, Pop," one of
the kids explains). While some of the cast members are certainly better singers than others,
all are able to get the songs across. And at times, some of the choral work is quite impressive.
Credit musical director Kevin Parcher, who accompanies the show on synthesizer, along with
Larry English's percussion.