The Musical of Musicals
MetroStage in Alexandria, VA, is presenting the Washington area premiere of The Musical of Musicals: The Musical, and it's a cause for celebration. Broadway show enthusiasts will laugh non-stop through this loving parody of the musical form, and even casual theatergoers should find plenty in it to enjoy.
The 2003 show by Eric Rockwell (book and music) and Joanne Bogart (book and lyrics) was a long-running hit Off-Broadway, and director Larry Kaye and choreographer Nancy Harry have found four multi-talented performers to bring all the music and silliness to life in this production. The premise is to take a fairly basic dramatic situation – the 19th-century melodrama plot about the wicked landlord, the innocent young woman who can't pay her rent, and the stalwart hero – as it would be musicalized in the styles of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and John Kander and Fred Ebb.
In all five treatments, Russell Sunday portrays the hero; Janine Gulisano-Sunday, the heroine; Bobby Smith, the villain; and Donna Migliaccio, the heroine's worldly friend. While all four are highly entertaining to watch and hear, Smith gives the most riotous performance as he smiles disarmingly at his own wit, glares at the audience, and on one occasion sings like Carol Channing.
Migliaccio takes every opportunity to exceed the expected, whether she's putting forth a crazed inspirational anthem about rainbows, mountains, and streams; growling, Lotte Lenya style, about how the one sure way a woman can earn money; or singing while literally bending over backward. Gulisano-Sunday has both a soaring soprano voice and a game sense of humor, and Sunday sends up the image of the swaggering leading man in several imaginative ways, one of which involves a kimono.
To give a taste of the inspired foolishness on display, the Rodgers and Hammerstein takeoff (titled "Corn") incorporates a dream ballet and a dramatic soliloquy for the hero; the Sondheim-esque "A Little Complex" plays on the composer's trademark dissonances and alienated characters; "Dear Abby" brings the older woman into the foreground in the tradition of Dolly Levi and Mame; "Aspects of Junita" features a (two-dimensional) chandelier, a deranged diva and a fog machine; and "Speakeasy," set in a Chicago cabaret during Prohibition, borrows from Bob Fosse's trademark moves as well as Kander and Ebb's sharp-edged songs.
Dan Kazemi is the musical director and, as pianist, the sole musician. He ably maintains the musical quality of the performance while offering an onstage personality as lovably unhinged as the singers'.
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.