Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Moonbox Productions Presents "The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!" - A Paradise of Parody

What fun!  I am still laughing over the antics I saw on display when I witnessed a recent performance of "The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!"  If you are familiar with the "Forbidden Broadway" genre of musical spoofs and parodies, then imagine one of their productions - only twice as clever and with 50% more brilliant puns.  The Plaza Theatre at Boston Center for the Arts was rocking this weekend as this production opened to enthusiastic audiences.

Composer Eric Rockwell and Lyricist Joanne Bogart combined their talents and their mutual love for musical theater in crafting this winsome love letter to some of the 20th Century's greatest Broadway composers.  In this pastiche, the works of several icons and pioneers of the musical theater stage are celebrated and lampooned.  The creator's have written in the styles of Rogers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb.

If you are a casual fan of theater, you will have a wonderful time as you sit back and watch a stellar cast create five original mini-plays - with the common theme of poor June being unable to pay the rent to snide landlord Jitter.  Big Willy comes along as hero, and Abby offers sage advice along the way.  In each of the five scenarios, the musical style of one of the icons is represented with original songs and lyrics that will remind you of some of the original composer's greatest hits.

It you are a musical theater aficionado, you will feel like a kid in a candy store, You will be playing mental games with yourself figuring out which show and song is being parodied, and how a particular pun refers to the source material.

Here are a couple of diagnostic questions so you may know which of the two categories you fall into.

During the "Corn" Rogers and Hammerstein scene, June says to Big Willy: "Okay, Okay, Okay!"
He responds with "Don't throw Okays at me!"

If you recognize a line from "People Will Say We're In Love" from "Oklahoma," then you are among the cognoscenti.

During the "A Little Complex" Sondheim scene, one of the characters opines: "Que sera, Seurat!"

If you get the point that they are punning on the name of pointillist painter George Seurat from Sondheim's "Sunday In The Park With George" then you cannot possibly plan to miss seeing this show.

These two examples are merely the tip of an iceberg of puns and clever allusions that will send chills down your spine.  In addition to the consummate writing skills of Rockwell and Bogart, the spot-on Direction and Choreography of Rachel Bertone provide a foundation upon which a vibrant cast of singers and dancers do their thing with a wondrous combination of joie de vivre and a knowing leer that says to the audience: "Ain't We Got Fun!"

Peter Mill as Bill
Katie Clark as June
Meredith Stypinski as Abby
Phil Tayler as Jitter
"The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!"
Moonbox Productions
Through December 20
The four principals are clearly having a ball as they morph their characters to fit ever-changing stereotypes and familiar musical theater scenarios.

Katie Clark is June.  Over the weekend, she was unable to sing, and the decision was made to have her portray her character on stage handling the speaking parts and miming the songs as her back-up, Dani Apple, sang the songs from the piano with Musical Director, Dan Rodriguez accompanying. It was a brilliant choice in the spirit of "the show must go on."  In fact, the cast rose to the occasion and improvised wonderfully.  Cast members often looked bemused as they toggled back and forth between looking at Katie and then at Dani, whose voice shone splendidly in each of her songs.  Katie transformed herself into a silent screen actress in the vein of Norma Desmond, and the show was all the richer for the added layer of irony.

Peter Mlll was Bill, always at the ready to find a clever way to help June pay the rent and perhaps fall in love with him.  Mr. Mill has a singing voice that is meant for the Broadway stage - strong and glorious and malleable.  His "Sowillyquy" in which he emulated Billy Bigelow of "Carousel" was a highlight.

Meredith Stypinski as Abby is given some of the most fun numbers, like "Follow Your Dream," which reminds us of Mother Superior counseling Maria in "The Sound of Music," and "We're All Gonna Die," as a toast to the "Ladies Who Lunch" in Sondheim's "Company.".  She hits all of the right notes - vocally and visually in each of Abby's five different manifestations.  Thank you, Abby, that was very helpful!

Phil Tayler as Jitter
"The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!"
Moonbox Productions
Through December 20

Phil Tayler as Jitter is at the top of his game.  I had with me as my guests two professional musicians. Their first comment to me about Mr. Tayler's performance was: "He is so versatile." Indeed.  Jitter is a villainous landlord ready to foreclose on June in "Corn," and then becomes a combination of Sweeney Todd and George Seurat in "A Little Complex." In "Aspects of Junita" he is the Phantom and in "Speakeasy" reminds us of the best of Joel Grey and Alan Cummings as the androgynous Cabaret host.  His "Hola, Aloha, Hello," is a hoot, In each of these very divergent roles, Mr. Tayler is completely believable and engaging.  His performance stands out among many excellent and memorable moments in this show turned in by the four principals and an enthusiastic and talented ensemble.   They sing, dance, prance, pose and preen as only musical theater professionals can do.

They are:

Julianne Daly, Nicholas Davis, Mathew Kossack, Caroline Lellouche, Allison Russell and Andrew Winans.

Scenic Design by Dale Conklin, Costumes by Marian Bertone, Lighting by David Wilson.

Through December 20 at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Do not miss this show!  I am going back to see it a second time!  Four out of five doctors recommend that you see this show to shake off the post-Black Friday Blues!



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