praise of 'Musicals'
tribute to the genre
By Jayne Blanchard
September 1, 2009
It's no good sitting alone in your room. So put on your Sunday clothes, and
don't cry for me, Argentina,
because life is a cabaret, old chum.
That's a sampling of the melodic mayhem in store for lovers of all things
Broadway at "The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)," MetroStage's encore production of Eric Rockwell and Joanne
Bogart's pun-filled lullaby to musical-theater titans. The razzle-dazzle and
broad comedy of "Musical of Musicals," first presented in 2007, have
not dimmed one watt. And with the addition of Matthew A. Anderson to the
original cast of Janine Gulisano-Sunday, Bobby Smith
and Donna Migliaccio, the star power and unabashed
joy have even increased.
Directed with high-energy cheekiness by Larry Kaye, "Musical of
Musicals" lovingly parodies 50 years of Broadway conventions and song
styles in less time than it takes to sit through "Les Miserables."
Mr. Rockwell and Miss Bogart borrow the basic story line from Rodgers and
— wholesome cowpoke (Mr. Anderson) is a-courtin'
prairie ingenue June (Miss Gulisano-Sunday)
but almost loses her to evil landlord Jidder (Mr.
Smith) while Abby (Miss Migliaccio) stands by to
dispense wise counsel and belt out big numbers — and present it a la Rodgers
and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander and Ebb.
Doug Lawler provides excellent piano accompaniment along with the
occasional commentary. There also are droll stage directions — instructing
audience members, for example, to applaud the chandelier and lighting changes.
Yet every skewering is delightfully on-target, starting with the
maize-glutted tribute "Oh, What Beautiful Corn!" Rodgers and
Hammerstein's penchant for sentimental duets and storytelling songs is
satirized in such lyrics as "A chipmunk is reading the Bible/he's got to
be carefully taught" and "What's that in my tooth?/A
kernel of truth." The requisite dream ballet is given a "run of De
Mille" treatment in an unhinged pas de deux by
Mr. Anderson and Miss Gulisano-Sunday.
The Jerry Herman segment spoofs the composer's penchant for ever-escalating
showstoppers and easily digestible ditties with gung-ho lyrics. Meanwhile, Mr.
Webber's reputation for wall-to-wall music and ripping off Puccini is sent up
in "Aspects of Junita," which features the
mysterious Phantom (Mr. Smith), who tears off his mask to reveal he's a deadpan
cat from T.S. Eliot.
We Washingtonians love our Kander and Ebb, and
"Speakeasy" lampoons the Broadway legends' love of gender-bending
characters, scanty lingerie and hip-thrusting Bob Fosse choreography. Mr.
Anderson goes above and beyond as the polysexual Villy. So does Miss Migliaccio as the basso-voiced chanteuse whose delivery of
the world-weary torch song brought the evening's biggest laughs.
You want subtlety? Go see a Michael John LaChiusa
chamber musical. "The Musical of Musicals" is broader than Ethel
Merman's high C and infinitely more entertaining.
WHAT: "The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)" music
by Eric Rockwell, lyrics by Joanne Bogart, book by Mr. Rockwell and Miss Bogart
WHERE: MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays,
3 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Oct. 18.
TICKETS: $45 to $50
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS
The Musical of Musicals (The
by Steven McKnight
September 1, 2009
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,
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.
Musical of Musicals
To kick off its 25th-anniversary season, MetroStage in Alexandria,
Virginia, has brought back the
riotous production of The Musical of Musicals: The Musical! that kept Washington
area audiences in stitches during the spring of 2007. If anything, this
remounting is better than the original, with director Larry Kaye and the three
returning cast members finding new, even wilder bits of business and the happy
additions of cast member Matthew A. Anderson and pianist/musical director Doug
The show is a loving parody of the
Broadway musical form, specifically the work of Richard Rodgers and Oscar
Hammerstein II, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and John Kander and Fred Ebb. Authors Eric Rockwell (book and music)
and Joanne Bogart (book and lyrics) achieve this goal by creating five
mini-musicals around the old melodrama plot about the wicked landlord, the
innocent young woman who can't pay her rent, and the stalwart hero who comes to
her aid, along with a wise older woman who serves as the heroine's confidant.
Some of the gags will only make sense to musical theater fanatics, but enough
are familiar to all audiences to make the show a roaring success.
Bobby Smith and Donna Migliaccio,
who both received Helen Hayes Award nominations for the original production,
once again appear as the villain and the heroine's friend. They add to their
zany portrayals with exaggerated facial expressions (Too much? Not for this
show), sly looks and double-takes aimed at the audience, and constant surprises
including indescribable sight gags. (Migliaccio is
leaving the production in two weeks to play Emma Goldman in the Broadway cast
of Ragtime. She will be succeeded at MetroStage
by Heather Mayes.)
The other returning cast member is Janine
Gulisano-Sunday, the heroine, who gets to be rapturous,
angst-ridden, whining, self-absorbed, and desperate in the space of less than
two hours. Anderson
fits right into the general sense of lunacy, pounding home the punch lines and
swaggering in an increasingly silly set of costumes (designed by Erin Nugent).
Here's a sample of what's on display.
"Corn!", the Rodgers and Hammerstein takeoff, offers a
"run-of-[Agnes] De Mille" dream ballet and a heroic soliloquy; the
Sondheim-esque "A Little Complex"
incorporates not only relentless wordplay, but also the harsh footlights and
shrieking factory whistle of Sweeney Todd; "Dear Abby" brings
the older woman into the foreground in the tradition of Dolly Levi and Mame; "Aspects of Junita"
tweaks Lloyd Webber's use of "wretched recitative" and repeated
melodies, as well as a two-dimensional chandelier that falls faster than the
one in The Phantom of the Opera; and "Speakeasy," set in a
Chicago cabaret during Prohibition, borrows from Bob Fosse's trademark moves as
well as Kander and Ebb's cynical songs.
Lawler, who never gets a chance to leave
his piano, has a winning stage presence as well as generous musical talent.
The designers also are in on the joke,
from the clashing curtains at the edges of Allison Campbell's set to Terry
Smith's lights in unexpected places. Nugent's costumes add measurably to the
impact of the performances, notably Migliaccio's
literal show-stopper for the end of the first act.
The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!
August 27th - October 18th
Music by Eric Rockwell
Lyrics by Joanne Bogart
Book by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart
Cast: Matthew A. Anderson, Donna Migliaccio, Janine Gulisano-Sunday, Bobby Smith; understudy, Heather Mayes
Directed by Larry Kaye
Choreography by Nancy Scales Harry
Musical direction by Doug Lawler
1201 N. Royal St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Ticket Information: 703-548-9044 or www.metrostage.org
Photo: Colin Hovde