Musical theatre lovers will be thrilled to know that The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) is back and better than ever. MetroStage has chosen to revive their hit 2007 production to kick off its 25th season, and Washington audiences get one more chance to experience its pure satirical fun.
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) is a musical parody of five Broadway legends: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander & Ebb. The production tells the same basic story five different times in the distinct musical styles of these composers.
In each story, the sweet young ingénue can’t pay the rent and is threatened with eviction or worse by the evil landlord. After she seeks advice from the sage older woman, the romantic male lead steps in to save the day.
Creators Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart have written a gentle and affectionate spoof, cleverly drawing from their deep knowledge of each of these Broadway giants. In each case, they stylishly caricature the musical spirit while including countless knowing references to the bodies of work of each target of homage.
Here’s an example – the first mini-musical is “Corn” in the style of Rodgers and Hammerstein (think Oklahoma!). Big Willy (Matthew A. Anderson) enters singing about his love for beautiful corn with a loopy rural optimism. Then comes his love ballad (“I Don’t Love You”) sung with June (Janine Gulisano-Sunday). But June will be forced to marry Jidder (Bobby Smith) if she doesn’t pay the rent. June is advised to follow her dream in a wacky inspirational parody sung by old mother Abby (Donna Migliaccio). Following a “run of DeMille” dream sequence, Big Willy just beats the deadline to pay the rent (thanks to daylight savings time) and marries June.
This opening story is wonderfully contrasted by the second mini, done in the style of Stephen Sondheim. The neurotic and angst-ridden residents of a New York City apartment complex (“The Woods”) face the threat of being murdered and covered in paper mache by the mad landlord /artist. The Jerry Herman parody celebrates a diva who lives by her schtick, which is wearing fabulous clothes and making grand entrances. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s section mostly borrows from Evita and The Phantom of the Opera while poking at allegations that Sir Andrew has borrowed music from classical composers (“I’ve Heard That Song Before”). The production ends with a sexy Chicago / Cabaret blend set in a speakeasy in the style of Kander & Ebb, with jazz hands for Bob Fosse’s choreography.
MetroStage has assembled an impressive cast, bringing back three of the four performers from the 2007 production that won DC Audience Choice Awards for Best Musical, and Best Actress (Donna Migliaccio) and Best Actor (Bobby Smith) in a Musical. Matthew A. Anderson is a terrific addition to the ensemble, bringing an endearing goofiness to his roles as well as to his hilarious dance moves (choreographed by Nancy Scales Harry).
[Note: Ms. Migliaccio will be leaving the show mid-run for the Broadway revival of Ragtime and will be replaced by Heather Mayes starting Sept. 17th.]
Although this reviewer enjoyed seeing the original production twice, this revival manages to be even more entertaining. The performers seem even more lively and self-assured , pitching those snappy lyrics, and executing their comic turns to the audience eagerly waiting for the next laugh.
Director Larry Kaye once again keeps the production sparkling, with vivid caricatures and seamless scene changes. Musical director Doug Lawler, a quadruple threat from Baltimore, flawlessly handles the various musical styles from the piano onstage, introduces the scene changes, and finally picks up a top hat to show us he’s a song and dance man, too.
It is difficult to explain just how funny The Musical of Musical (The Musical!) is without spoiling its almost nonstop jokes. MetroStage’s charming production is a loving homage not only to the specific composers, but to the broader world of musical theatre. If you have ever enjoyed a musical, don’t miss The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!). You’ll wish it would never end.
Music by Eric Rockwell, Lyrics by Joanne Bogart
Book by Eric Rockwell & Joanne Bogart
Directed by Larry Kaye
Musical Direction by Doug Lawler
Produced by MetroStage
Reviewed by Steven McKnight