Tuesday, August 8, 2023

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 416, A Review: "The Musicals of Musicals" (Legacy Theatre)

 By James V. Ruocco

parody: a form of humor that imitates or exaggerates someone or something for pure comic effect or ridicule.

spoof: a humorous imitation of something, typically, a play, a film or a particular genre where everything is exaggerated for great comic effect.

In Legacy Theatre's "The Musicals of Musicals," the celebrated works of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb are skewered and bandied about with top flight wicked abandon as the show's creators Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart concoct an over-the-top parody of sorts that amusingly rips apart the plots, characters, themes and songs of popular Broadway fare with apt melodrama and homage tossed in for an outrageous party that never once dies down for a millisecond.
It's killer funny.
It's ridiculously realized.
It's knockout wackadoodle.
It's bright and brash.
It's creative and inspired.
It's quick-paced and dizzying.
It is also riddled with theatrical references and in-house jokes so amusingly fine-tuned and spoon fed, you make need to bring a pad and pencil to write everything down or grab yourself a ticket for a return visit.

Whatever the case, The Musicals of Musicals" is guaranteed fun that hits every giggly note with a drive forward delight that's absolutely irresistible.

The set up is simple enough.
Divided into five acts, each of which is dotted and inked with a short musical tale that purposely parodies the works of a specific Broadway composer, lyricist of team, "The Musical of Musicals" goes hog wild with a goofball conceit tied together by a running melodramatic gag that finds the four central characters of each story crying "I can't pay my rent!" (i.e., "Rent" by Jonathan Larson)

"Corn!" an homage to the musicals penned by Rodgers & Hammerstein pokes fun at "Oklahoma!" "The Sound of Music," "Cinderella," "South Pacific," "The King and I" and "Flower Drum Song."
"A Little Complex" thrusts the musicals of Stephen Sondheim center stage with barbed attacks aimed specifically at "Sweeney Todd," "Sunday in the Park with George," "A Little Night Music," "Company," "Assassins," "Pacific Overtures," "Into the Woods" "Anyone Can Whistle" and "Merrily We Roll Along."
"Dear Abby" roasts Jerry Herman and "Hello Dolly!" "Mame," "Dear World" and La Cage aux Folles."
"Aspects of Juanita" playfully attacks the celebrated musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber including "Evita," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Aspects of Love," "Starlight Express," "Cats," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Sunset Boulevard," "Tell Me on a Sunday" and "Jesus Christ Superstar."
"Speakeasy" finds Kander & Ebb in the hot seat with jokes aplenty about "Cabaret," "Chicago," "Liza with a Z" and Kiss of the Spider Woman."

Fueled with designated wit, camp, disses, mash ups, roars, blasts and jolly good comeuppances, "The Musicals of Musicals," as shaped by Rockwell and Bogart, thrusts Legacy Theatre's bountiful production into the spotlight where it gathers up steam, rips each composer/lyricist to shreds, places characters from various musicals in the wrong story and finally, creates outrageous opportunities for the actors to run around in circles elicited by comic and musical situations that produce great laughter at every turn. 

Staging "The Musicals of Musicals," director Colin Sheehan - a Broadway aficionado who first fell in love with musical theatre at the tender age of seven - crafts a solid, focused, thrill-and-spill parody that nearly blows the roof off Legacy Theatre. Here, the knowing nonsense of the material, mixed with flavorful song and dialogue that ignites the musical's melodramatic spin, allows Sheehan to run wild - and run wild he does - amping up the onstage action to 100 mph and finding laughs in all the right places while putting his own personal spin on the story itself, its homage to Broadway musical theatre, the characters themselves and the production's dizzying plotting and parody.
As theatre auteur and storyteller, Sheehan gets it right at every turn. 
Directorially, he knows what works. He knows how to build and pace a scene. He knows how to get a laugh. He knows when to pause, when to take a breath, when it hit hard, when to pull back, when to overplay and when to surprise.
He also creates the perfect stage picture, giving "The Musicals of Musicals" an over-the-top heartbeat that carries it from one segment to the next, eliciting laughs in all the right places while juxtaposing the ideas, themes and sarcasm of the play's originators with side-by-side frivolity, strong comedic timing and blasts of musical staging inspiration that complements his innate versatility and tremendous directorial showmanship.

Musical director Bill Speed, seated at an onstage, off-to-the-side piano for the entire production (there is no intermission) runs the show with a crisp, playful, campy-like precision that complements the musical's bounce, twists, turns, puns, nuttiness and in-your-face parody. It's a feat that keeps "The Musicals of Musicals" on its toes (no pun intended), harnessing the poke-fun musicality of the piece, its rapid-fire momentum, its ripe vocals, its machine-gun-fast lyrical spins and mash ups and its hilarious melodic assaults of original songs that take their cue from "Sweeney Todd" ("The Ballad of Jitter," "Birds"), "Carousel" ("Clam Dip," "I Don't Love You," "Sowillyquey"), "Oklahoma!" ("Oh, What Beautiful Corn," "Daylight Savings Time"), "The Phantom of the Opera" ("Chandelier Scena," "Sing a Song"), "Cabaret" ("Easy Mark," "Hola, Aloha, Hello") and "Mame" ("Did I Put Out Enough?" "Take My Advice and Live").

"The Musical of Musicals" stars Randall Delone Adkison, Keely Baisden, Karl Gasteyer and Christine Voytko.
There are star turns. There are showstoppers. There are laughs. There are surprises. There are moments destined to live long in memory.
Song by song and segment by segment, this talented quartet are in full and fine voice that reflect and complement the conceit and parody of the material, the musical story arcs, the over-the-top theatricality of the show's creators and the delightfully wicked mashups that leave you breathless and begging for more.
What's wonderful about this particular group of performers - all stars in their own right - is the depth and versatility they bring to every song they perform, their amazing range and control, their individual harmonizing, their continuity, their bouts of humor and how they wrap their voice around crazy lyrics they want you to appreciate and understand. It's a bull's-eye win from start to finish.

A musical entertainment that combines clever staging with hilarious parodies of Broadway musicals with a lush, inviting old vaudeville palace sound, "The Musicals of Musicals" is a delightfully inventive kitsch and carry theatrical gumdrop amped up to giddy perfection by director Collin Sheehan and his fantabulous cast of four.
It pops. It swaggers. It soars. It shifts. It tilts. It sings. It surprises. It stings.
Given its title and the genre it spoofs so insanely, its homage to all things musical is Broadway cheese and ham like no other, spliced and diced with healthy dozes of nonsense and fluff guaranteed to keep you howling for weeks.
It's a comedic jewel in Legacy Theatre's ongoing 2023 season and one that initiates a front row seat for any theatergoer who gets his or her kick from hijinks and hokum, great throwaway gags and dozens and dozens of songs that give the all clear to breezy and pacy spoofs of everything from "Evita" and "The Phantom of the Opera" to "Oklahoma!" "Sweeney Todd," "Cats," "South Pacific" and "The King and I," etc., etc., etc.

"The Musicals of Musicals" was staged at Legacy Theatre (128 Thimble Islands Road, Banford, CT) from July 13-30, 2023.
For more information or tickets to upcoming shows, call (203) 315-1901.
website: legacytheatrect.org

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