The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!
Reviewed by Brad Hathaway

 

Running time 1:45 - one intermission
t A Potomac Stages Pick for a high-spirit laugh filled romp

 

The more you know about musicals, the funnier you will find this spoof of formulas of some of the big Broadway composers and lyricists of the past fifty or so years. If you know all of the major shows of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander and Ebb, you will "get" every gag in this fast paced, four person (plus pianist) send-up of those shows. The fun isn't just in the puns, or in all the in-jokes embedded in the material, however. The energy of the performers - all of whom you will recognize if you do even some of your musical theatergoing in the Potomac Region - and the pure cleverness of the concept add to the pleasure. And, being a musical, there are many songs and dances which are staged with verve and performed not only with affection for the material but with strong musical talent as well. Originally, the piece was performed by a cast of four with one doubling on the piano. Here, the piano is played by a fifth cast member, Dan Kazemi who adds his own bright persona to the mix.

 

Storyline: One simple plot is performed "in the style" of each of five major Broadway musical writers or teams. The plot is that old standby of melodrama involving the young girl who can't pay the rent, the evil landlord who would take advantage of her, the older and wiser woman who provides advice and the young man who rushes to the rescue. The show is done first in the style of Rodgers and Hammerstein (titled Corn! - devotees of Oklahoma! will note the exclamation mark). Then the same plot is given the treatment expected from Stephen Sondheim (A Little Complex), Jerry Herman (Dear Abby) Andrew Lloyd Webber (Aspects of Junita) and finally Kander and Ebb (Speakeasy).

Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart developed this affectionate but very funny lampoon. They began their collaboration at the very heart of musical appreciation: the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop which was established to foster the development of new talent in the field. Nowhere could the chemistry be more conducive to a hoot of a send-up of the genre. The show first played the tiny off-Broadway space in the basement of a modern church, the York Theatre on New York's Lexington Avenue. It was nominated for both the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical and the Drama Desk Outstanding Musical, Music, Lyrics and Direction Awards.

Under the tight direction of Larry Kaye not a minute goes by without a visual, verbal or musical gag, keeping the laughter flowing throughout. The young lovers are real-life man and wife Janine Gulisano-Sunday and Russell Sunday, who are often seen together on stage at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia. She is a four time Helen Hayes Award nominee for West Side Story, Brigadoon, Danny & Sylvia and Jekyll & Hyde while he was also nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Jekyll & Hyde at Toby's where he has performed the leading roles in Miss Saigon, Aida, Kiss Me, Kate and Damn Yankees, among others.

The evil landlord is Bobby Smith who is just about as very funny as he was as the snail in A Year With Frog and Toad at Roundhouse a year ago, only this time he has more to do, and thus, gets even more laughs. Speaking of laughs: Donna Migliaccio is just about as funny as she has ever been in these mini-musicals, and that is saying quite a lot. She's the "Aunt Eller" character in the Oklahoma! spoof, the star with name recognition but no talent in the Mame takeoff, and a Cabaret girl like you've never seen before in the Kander and Ebb Cabaret-ish Speakeasy. It is her contribution to the Sweeney Todd moments in the Sondheim spoof that are most inspired.