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The imaginative and fantastically funny one-man show Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!, which Raleigh, NC-based Broadway Series South presented on March 5th, was a wonderfully witty one-of-a-kind entertainment written and performed by Johnson, who won the 2007 Tony Award winner for Special Theatrical Event. Co-created by Johnson and directors Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel, this nifty 90-minute show is part ventriloquist act, part tongue-in-cheek history of ventriloquism, and all fabulous fun — although it contains a liberal sprinkling of R-rated language that you wouldn't want little ears to hear and little mouths to repeat ... incessantly. Sadly, The Two and Only! played to a half-empty house in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
In his uproarious running commentary, Jay Johnson claimed that Satan was the very first ventriloquist way back in the Garden of Eden — when he threw his voice to make the snake “talk,” so it could convince Eve to eat of the Forbidden Fruit — and that the famous Oracles of Delphi made the dead “speak” via ventriloquism. As he traversed the stage from basket to trunk to suitcase and back again, resurrecting ventriloquist’s dummies and assorted puppets of all shapes and sizes, Jay Johnson mesmerized the small but attentive crowd who applauded each new crazy character that the ventriloquist created.
Johnson scored hit after hit on the audience’s funny-bone with his rib-tickling routines featuring Amigo the brassy boa constrictor; a naughty Nutcracker; a sassy severed head named Long John La Feat; Nethernore, the vituperative vulture and self-proclaimed “Bird of Death,” whose version of “My Way” was a showstopper; Johnson’s whimsical childhood playmates Jackie and Gaga (who quite literally phoned in their performances); Spaulding the tennis ball with eyes; Johnson’s beloved Squeaky II, who replaced Johnson’s first Jerry Mahoney dummy; Bob, Johnson’s impertinent wooden-headed co-star on the ABC sitcom “Soap”; Arthur Drew, whom Johnson quickly sketches and then brings to life nightly on a specially constructed whiteboard; and Darwin the outrageously uninhibited “jazz monkey” who brings the house down as he goes ape.
Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! earned a hearty standing ovation from the small but enthusiastic Wednesday night audience. Jay Johnson and his highly animated assortment of puppets deserve also kudos for their eye-opening exhibition of the ventriloquist’s art.Broadway Series South presents Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!: http://www.thetwoandonly.com/. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/.