Putting It Together: A Musical Read-Through at MetroStage

By Joel Markowitz


March 27, 2007

There’s great enthusiasm, hope, and excitement at the first read-through of the new production of the Off-Broadway hit The Musical of Musicals at Metro Stage.

It’s Tuesday, March 20th at 4:30 PM. As I walk from the King Street Metro to 1201 North Royal Street, I remember the first time I saw the show in NYC where I laughed myself silly. The show was orgasmic for this musical theatre fanatic. Will local theatre goers enjoy this "Ode to Musical Lovers" as much as I did?

Well, with what I saw at the read-through, the show should be a blast and hopefully, a big hit. I’m expecting local theatre goers to howl loudly when they come to see the show at Metro Stage.

I walk into the theatre and am surrounded by lots of dust, chairs piled up on the sides of the aisles, electrical chords on the floor, cable wire strewn around, ladders and drills, lights and yellow and blue panels leaning on the stage, which will comprise part of the set.

There is a long rectangular table with chairs filled with the incredibly talented cast of Bobby Smith (who I loved this year in Caroline, or Change at Studio Theatre and Girl In The Goldfish Bowl here at Metro Stage), Donna Migliaccio (Helen Hayes Winner for her pie-making performance as Mrs. Lovett in Signature’s Sweeney Todd and a nominee this year for Assassins at Signature as Sarah Jane Moore) and Janine Gulisano-Sunday and her husband-singer extraordinaire Russell Sunday, (who I have seen perform in countless musicals at Toby’s – The Dinner Theatre of Columbia), and musical director, Dan Kazemi, who is sitting at the piano on the left side of the table.

With a cast like this, director Larry Kaye will have an enjoyable time mounting this production. They are all pros and extremely musical.

Larry Kaye begins the read through by introducing the cast, choreographer Nancy Harry, Set Designer Allison Campbell, Lighting Designer Terry Smith, Costume Designer Erin Nugent. (Sound Designer Steve Beano was not present). Larry asks the cast if they had reviewed the script and score, Janine, Donna and Russell nod "yes," while funnyman Bobby Smith responds, "Yes, I looked at it once!"

Dan proceeds to lead the cast in vocalizing and warm up exercises. Hearing the cast warm up with "Meow-Meow-Meow-Meow-Meow-Meow" and "He-He-He-He-He-He’s" is, well, ear bending, but the beautiful tones that follow the "meows and He-Hes" by this vocally talented cast, brings shivers up and down my spine. I am so excited because I know then that this cast is going to be the best singing cast the show has ever had.

Larry next has the cast mark changes he has made to the script (which the creators have approved) and explains who would be saying and singing the changes. And then the singing of the very funny score and reading of the very funny book begins.

I’m not going to give the humor of the book away, but suffice it to say that this cast hits all the right notes and are superb comedians and comediennes. Donna thrills the attendees with some incredible vocal wonders. Carolyn and I applaud wildly and hoot when Donna hits these notes. Merman would have been proud!

The director explains to his cast his philosophy: "I will not put an actor in a scene where the actor isn’t comfortable," and vows to "bring out every comic moment in this script." (or else! Just kidding.) And I know that this cast will deliver because this show is perfectly tailored to their vocal and comic abilities and talents. They are perfectly cast.

After a quick dinner break in the lobby, where the cast munches on sandwich wraps and chicken wings and cookies, set designer Alisson Campbell shows a scaled down model of her set. "I am trying to find a surprise or a moment that has a surprise in every scene." Some of these surprises are unveiled, but I won’t divulge them to you. Costume designer Erin Nugent shows sketches of her costumes and explains that there will be 15 second costume changes which will occur offstage. (Look for kimonos, bath robes, glasses, some pretty formal outfits to be worn by the cast).

It’s 8:30 PM and I have to leave to catch the metro. Of course, I get lost for a while until a patient and understanding pedestrian shows me the way and walks me to the Braddock Street Metro. I just miss a train and wait another 20 minutes when a Blue Line train gets me to Metro Center, where I transfer to The Shady Grove Red Line train and arrive back to my condo- The Gallery- one block from The White Flint Metro at 10:15 PM. I review and update the notes used for this article, and as I heat up some soup in the microwave, I happily recount the funny lines of The Musical of Musicals and smile at the great cast that will bring it to life at Metro Stage from April 12-June 3rd.

Alright! Alright!   Here’s a snippet from the show’s parody of Rodgers and Hammerstein:

 "That was a delicious clam dip

Eating it made us glad.

We know they were minced, but we’re convinced

That some of them clams were bad.

Our stomachs hurt, our bladders are full

We drank too much champagne.

That was delicious clam dip

But some of us got Ptomaine!"