R&H Theatricals sat down with Bob & Jim Walton to talk about their newest show, DOUBLE TROUBLE (A Musical Tour de Farce.)
Jim and Bob have written together since 1991 when they wrote and performed in, MY BROTHER’S KEEPER, originally a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefit.This show later played the Pasadena Playhouse and several other regional theaters and received the 1997 Bistro Award for Best Musical in New York. They went on to collaborate on a two actor musical, DOUBLE TROUBLE (A Musical Tour de Farce), in which they performed at Goodspeed-at-Chester and Stage One in Wichita, Kansas. This led to their creation of MIDLIFE! (The Crisis Musical), which was part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004 before premiering at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in 2006. Presently, they are working on their latest creation, A DAY IN GLOUCESTER. Jim and Bob also appeared in THE ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF 1936 (revival) for Encore Presentations.
R&H: Tell us a little bit about DOUBLE TROUBLE.
Bob: It’s basically about two singing/dancing/songwriting brothers who are flown to LA to write the big hit song for a movie musical and all the crazy characters they meet at the studio.
Jim: It’s also about the temptation of being seduced by fame and fortune, and of the Martin brothers’ ultimate success in resisting it.
R&H: What lead you to write DOUBLE TROUBLE?
Bob: We grew up loving the MGM movie musicals, especially of Astaire and Kelly, but also the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, to name a few. Since we both had done the show CRAZY FOR YOU, we tried to write a two-hander that had the farce like elements of that show combined with other shows we admire, like GREATER TUNA and IRMA VEP.
Jim: Like Bob says, we loved the MGM musicals growing up, and recreating our version of that magic was fulfilling. A sort of valentine to MGM musicals, like DAMES AT SEA, for example. It was also written out of our desire to create a smaller, more affordable show to produce, and one that would provide a sizable challenge to two singing actors.
R&H: What is it like to perform in DOUBLE TROUBLE? It is clearly challenging, did you have a lot of fun after the hard work was done?
Bob: The show was an incredible work out, physically – but very rewarding. We almost always had fun, because it’s just very ridiculous so it’s hard to get too worked up when you’re trying to do a scene with a recording of the other actor, because he is off stage putting on a female body suit. Technically it can be a little challenging – recording the voice overs, the sound person getting all the cues to sound natural within a scene, the set looking nice and slick but having escapes everywhere so the actors can get out and change. While being brothers adds a certain spark to the show, we feel it’s a great showcase for two versatile performers. Familiarity with the period and those movies is important – but the actual skills can be varied to suit the actors. The impressions don’t have to be that great, the piano playing can be finagled so it LOOKS like someone is playing if they don’t actually play. Vocally it can be challenging to have to sing like a woman, while dancing in heels and sweating. But that’s the glamour of show biz!!
Jim: The show is a blast to perform. I worried about playing REBECCA, the femme fatale, only to find it my favorite character to play! There are so many varied characters, and the changes come fast and furious. So there’s no time to get bored or to take any of it for granted. There is a huge amount of room for comic invention (uhhh, schtick), which was great fun for us and for the audiences. And if you’re having trouble losing five or ten pounds, it’s a great remedy.
R&H: What was the audience reaction like to the show?
Bob: We were very, very pleased with the audience response – especially in Wichita. We didn’t know the theatre, the audiences didn’t know us or the show and we weren’t sure if it would be the type of show midwesterner’s would like — but they really laughed a lot. I think it’s partially because the show also has some of that Carol Burnett feel to it – and they liked feeling like they were in on the joke of seeing if those two fools were really going to be able to get through it! Audiences do like to laugh, and it felt like we were able to deliver them.
Jim: I agree with Bob. The audiences were very receptive, and I feel they liked being in on the jokes that were winks at the fact we were playing all the roles. There was always room to find new moments to milk a laugh, and when your partner is as fun to play off as Bob, it’s basically a crazy costume party for each performance. We were lucky enough to video the production in Wichita, and to this day, listening to the laughter is a gratifying thing. It’s nice to know some audiences still appreciate the silly humor of those MGM days as much as we do, and maybe enjoy an escape back to a more innocent time. We were lucky to be able to honor our heroes from those movie musicals in DOUBLE TROUBLE.