The Washington Times

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Jest 'Musical' pun

By Jayne Blanchard
Published April 20, 2007


MetroStage's peppy production of "The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)," Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart's melodic and pun-filled parody of Broadway titans, is an unabashed joy for devotees of musical theater -- not only will you get most of the aural and visual jokes, but you'll also want to return a few times to catch the stuff you might have missed from laughing too hard.


    Yet, Broadway neophytes will also warm to the show's terrifically talented cast and broad comedy.


    Directed with tongue-in-cheek razzle-dazzle by Larry Kaye, "Musical of Musicals" is reminiscent of the "Forbidden Broadway" series, Monty Python's "Spamalot" and "The Producers" in its loving purloining of Broadway conventions and song stylings.


    Mr. Rockwell and Miss Bogart take the basic story line from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" -- wholesome boy Billy (Russell Sunday) meets wholesome girl June (Janine Gulisano-Sunday) and almost loses girl to evil landlord Jidder (Bobby Smith), while the motherly Abby (Donna Migliaccio) is on hand to dispense salty advice -- and reconfigure it as Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerry Herman, and Kander and Ebb musicals.


    The sole musical accompaniment is provided by the excellent Dan Kazemi, who steps from behind the piano from time to time to deliver droll commentaries, not to mention star in the show's rousing closing number "Done," a takeoff of the song "One" from "A Chorus Line."


    The composers are daffily on-target with the opening ode to Rodgers and Hammerstein, which is a corn-fed tribute to "Oklahoma!" with a little "King and I," "Carousel," "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music" thrown in.


    Rodgers and Hammerstein's penchant for sentimental duets and profound "tell a story in a song" lyrics is skewered in the hilarious love song "I Don't Love You" and other ditties. There's even the requisite dream ballet, here, a pas de deux with corn, executed with mock Agnes de Mille solemnity by Miss Gulisano-Sunday and Mr. Sunday.


    Sondheim mavens can forget their troubles, come on, get happy basking in the angst-riddled satire of "A Little Complex," which is essentially "Company" and "Follies" by way of "Into the Woods" and "Sweeney Todd." This playlet features a deliciously tortured artist (Mr. Smith) who turns murderous once he finds out one of the tenants threw his art out in the trash and muses, "What would be the matter with the murder of a model?"


    Mr. Smith, a veteran song-and-dance man with an amusingly wicked touch, is all of Mr. Sondheim's artfully tormented heroes rolled into one. Miss Migliaccio has a deliciously deadpan turn delivering one of Mr. Sondheim's trademark "been there, done that" songs with Elaine Stritch-like panache.


    Andrew Lloyd Webber's reputation for maddening repetition and ripping off other composers is skewered in "Aspects of Junita," in which an Evita-like figure (Miss Gulisano-Sunday) is chastized by a character not unlike Che (Mr. Sunday) and also wooed by the mysterious Phantom (Mr. Smith), who pulls off his mask to reveal he's really a Jellicle cat.


    Mr. Smith, who is once again a stitch here, also contributes a suave, Noel Coward-esque performance as a gay boulevardier in the Jerry Herman parody, "Dear Abby," in which Miss Migliaccio out-dames both Mame and Dolly.

 
    Perhaps the highlight in an evening of showstoppers is "Speakeasy," in the style of Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret," "Chicago," and "Kiss of the Spider Woman." The black bowlers, naughty lingerie (worn by both sexes) and slinky Bob Fosse-like choreography is impeccably lampooned. Miss Gulisano-Sunday does a rip-roaring parody of Liza Minnelli that would be the envy of many drag queens. The biggest laugh, however, goes to Miss Migliaccio as a jaded chanteuse in the Marlene Dietrich mold, whose vocal register is deeper than Paul Robeson's.


    The corn is higher than an elephant's eye in "The Musical of Musicals," but so what? The show is more fun than the umpteenth revival of "Grease" and, sadly, more clever and tuneful than most of what passes for Broadway moxie these days.