Passions explode into music in the new musical “Two Queens, One Castle,” which is playing through March 5 at MetroStage. Built on a simple story of a marriage undermined by infidelity — in this case a wife shocked to discover her husband’s homosexual liaison and his resulting infection with HIV — the evening starts on a high emotional note and rarely subsides.
Felicia Curry makes her fantastic MetroStage debut after a number of promising near-breakout performances in the area over the past few years. Hers is the voice that jump-starts this show with the plaintive “So You Wanna Know (About My Life)” that establishes a solid blues-tinged pop/rock sound for the evening.
Curry is a constant strength for the production as she plays a woman who rises to fame as a vocalist and actress (think Diana Ross without the Supremes) and draws strength from her marriage to a loving man, played by TC Carson.
Carson may be best known for his work on television (“Living Single”) but he has solid musical theater credentials. This is not the first time he has handled this role of a husband whose adventures in the “downlow,” the underworld of homosexual liaisons of men maintaining heterosexual marriages, breaks the marriage apart. He played the part in Atlanta in one of the two previous productions the musical has had.
Carson has the searing second act number “I Chose You.” When the show premiered at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis as “an autobiographical musical-parable” by Javetta Steele, the number was a pleasant blues. In Carson’s rendition, it is an emotional experience beginning with a nearly never-ending wail which segues into a full-out bemoaning blues lament. It is a scene, that for a moment, seems to allow the marriage to survive the impact of the husband’s violation of his wife’s trust and love.
Curry’s following number, “Bed of Steel and Stone,” is a poignant rejection of any possible reconciliation and the story proceeds to its inevitable conclusion. The other side of the triangle, the other “queen” in the castle, is Gary E. Vincent, who provides a solidly plausible character that seems to be in part the lover as the husband sees him, and in part what the wife imagines he must be.
The musical score is by William Hubbard and J. D. Steele with lyrics by Javetta Steele and Thomas W. Jones II. Hubbard also acts as musical director for this production and plays keyboard along with the solid bass work of Yuseff Chisholm and the driving beat of drummer Quincy Phillips. Jones also directs, as he did with “Harlem Rose,” “Three Sistahs” and “All Night Strut” previously at MetroStage. In addition to the three principals, he fields a trio of supporting singing performers including Tracy McMullan, Monique Paulwell and, as the wife’s “Momma,” Roz White Gonsalves.
A great set by Dan Conway uses rotating door-sized mirrors through which characters can be seen, appearing at times as apparitions in the imaginings of the characters on stage.
The end result is a highly charged, emotional evening of great singing, fine backing from the off-stage combo and a sharply told, involving story.