The Two Svengalis

Fred Barton and Toni DiBuono in THE TWO SVENGALIS

Fred Barton and Toni DiBuono in THE TWO SVENGALIS

"THE TWO SVENGALIS spotlights rapier-sharp words and a score that ranges from torchy ballads to lilting swing—with a healthy dose of Broadway brass —dark subtext and dry humor, two fascinating characters, and a book that is most intriguing. Toni DiBuono provides the perfect balance of showbiz pizzazz and human frailty. Tuner's offbeat quality is sure to appeal to sophisticated theatre crowds." 

– Jeremy Mars, VARIETY

"This witty and entertaining show tells the intentionally florid story of two people who, driven by a need for revenge against their former lovers, rise to fame and fortune. Barton's songs have real craft behind them and DiBuono is a wonderful comedienne. In short, this is a fine piece of work."

– Barbara & Scott Siegel, THEATERMANIA

What happens when a hack songwriter is faced with the daunting task of transforming an amateur singing housewife into the greatest singer/actress in the world?

The inevitable: he succeeds.

And what happens when an amateur singing housewife is faced with the daunting task of transforming a hack songwriter into the toast of Broadway?

The inevitable: she succeeds... 

And together they conquer the world—and each other—in fifteen songs... 

And only they know who they really are...


THE TWO SVENGALIS, Richmond Triangle Players

THE TWO SVENGALIS, Richmond Triangle Players


They Made Each Other.

Music & Lyrics by Fred Barton

Book by Fred Barton and Toni DiBuono

THE TWO SVENGALIS is based on two sources: a true-life incident from my own catalogue of bizarre encounters, and George du Maurier's classic novel Trilby

The true-life incident occurred during my first year in New York, when I set up my vocal coaching studio, advertised in the theatre newspaper Back Stage, and took all comers.  One day I greeted a shy, terrified housewife from New Jersey, who had come to me at the command of her husband.  He apparently held weekly business dinners at their home and enjoyed having his wife entertain their guests with performances of show tunes. 

As she related these unusual circumstances, her obvious lack of confidence and enthusiasm (call it sheer terror) fascinated me. She only came to me once or twice -- but I never forgot her story, and eventually my writer's mind began to twitch:  what if the husband's compulsion to send his wife into Manhattan for singing lessons was a ruse? What was he doing back home during his wife's absence? And what if the choice of singing coach was not as random as picking a name out of the Back Stage classifieds? What if the cynical songwriter and the hapless dinner-party diva magically inspired each other to become the toast of Broadway? And that's where George du Maurier started to kick in.  

Toni DiBuono and fourteen songs later, presto: THE TWO SVENGALIS, the ultimate musical for a piano man and his towering diva.

In the style of 1950's Hollywood backstage musicals, combined with the melodramatics of Douglas Sirk, THE TWO SVENGALIS ponders the mysterious electricity that mutually ignites two sympatico talents – the Porters and Mermans, the Cowards and Lawrences... and the chaos that ensues as they try to figure out who's bringing out the brilliance of whom. The Svengalis' songs grow in sophistication over the development of their rapport and celebrity, from cornball honky-tonk to Dolores-Gray-50's swing showstoppers, culminating in a contemporary ballad, "There's A String Tied To A Good Time."

We debuted the show at the Delaware Theatre Company in the spring of 1990. Then we took the show to the Terrace Room in Boston, where FORBIDDEN BROADWAY had played for seven years. Summer of 1990 saw our New York debut.

Then Toni and I each got into TV work – and we didn’t revive THE TWO SVENGALIS in New York until 2004, and I produced the CD in 2006. In 2008, the show had a smash regional debut at the Richmond Triangle Players in Virginia, where my MISS GULCH RETURNS! had also been a hit.

Every town in the country has its own Piano Guy, and its own Local Diva Lady and THE TWO SVENGALIS is their ultimate showcase – so over time, I expect the show will be produced everywhere.

The show contains my best songs by far, and the roles are a blast to play, so I’m looking forward to its next productions!