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A CurtainUp Review
The Musical of Musicals

The Musical of Musical Hits the Road
By Laura Hitchcock

Brent Schindele, Mary Gordon Murray, Jeffrey Rockwell and Alli Mauzey in the Colony Theatre Company production of The Musical of Musicals (Photo: Michael Lamont)
It takes guts, skill and talent to steal the themes of most of the world's major musicals, combine them and disguise them as a lampoon of this beloved All-American form. Eric Rockwell (music) and Joanne Bogart (lyrics) have all three. They also wrote the book for this more than OK pastiche that goes beyond parody to spotlight the trival profundities that musicals are made of.

Diversity and strong singing and dancing chops are a must for something like this and the Colony Theatre cast displays them all in a re-creation of the 2005 West Coast Premiere at The Laguna Playhouse — and of course, the original at the show's scenic designer James Morgan's own York Theater in New York where CurtainUp first reviewed this—and again, when it transferred for a longer run to New World Stages. (both reviews follow this California update). Alli Mauzey can range from a delicate vibrato to a belter and dances with flair. Mary Gordon Murray is a prima donna with a world weary way. Brent Schindele is the juvenile with gleaming blonde hair and a sly way with a dance step. Jeffrey Rockwell, also the Musical Director, plays the villain, slithering with glee from Poor Jud in Oklahoma to The Phantom of the Opera.

The show will be at the Colony Theatre (555 North Third Street, Burbank, (818) 558-7000) through November 9th.

Editor's Note: As long as we are revisiting this ingenious little show, we'd like to add a tribute to one of its talented original cast members, the lovely and talented Lovette George, whose untimely recent death saddened all who had the pleasure to see her in this show.

The Musical of Musicals Returns

Musical of Musicals Cast
Joanne Bogart, Craig Fols Eric Rockwell, Lovette George, Eric Rockwell
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
This witty little musical spoof has found a new home. Now that the show has officially re-opened for an open-ended run, I can report that it retains its satirical edge and the four-member cast is better than ever.

The comfortable Stage 5 theater is, like the York's home at the St. Peter's Church Theater, intimate enough not to dwarf the minimally staged show. The five" in the style of" segments have been slightly trimmed so that they now clock in at 90 minutes, including the intermission, but otherwise the show is as reviewed originally (see original review following this box).

This being my second viewing, I caught some allusions missed the first time around. The Rogers and Hammerstein sendup, Corn, remains the one most likely to strike an "I get it" response even from those who are not musical theater aficionados, though my companion who didn't know all the Herman and Sondheim shows well enough to "get " all the middle segment allusions, enjoyed them nevertheless. We both thought the Kander and Ebb Cabaret-Chicago style Speakeasy the pefect icing for this delectably comic confection -- it not only is super clever but could stand completely on its own, especially Joanne Bogart's priceless Lotte Lenya-ish Fraulein Abby.

Between their York Theatre gig and this comeback the talented foursome has recorded the show. The CD comes complete with four-color production photos and liner notes that include the allusionary lyrics. To get your copy go here

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical)
Music by Eric Rockwell
Lyrics by Joanne Bogart
Book by Rockwell & Bogart.
Director/Choreographer: Pamela Hunt
Cast: Joanne Bogart, Craig Fols, Lovette George, Eric Rockwell.
Set Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: John Carver Sullivan
Lighting Design: Mary Jo Dondlinger Sound Design: David Gotwald
Running time: 1 hour and 30 minutes with one intermission
Dodger Stages, Stage 5, 340 West 50th Street, (212) 239-6200.
Tickets $55-$59.50.
from 2/02/05; official re-opening 2/10/05Tues. - Sat. evenings at 8:00pm. Sunday evenings at 7:00pm. Matinees Sat. at 4:00pm; Sun. at 3:00pm.
Re-reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 2/09/05 performance
Last performance 11/13/05 after a total of 583 performances in New York, of these 327 (9 of them previews) at the Dodgers.

--The Original Review
Musicals that make fun of other musicals range from annually updated shows like Gerard Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway, currently in its twentieth edition, to musicals that weave such send-ups into the fabric of the overall script like so many Ninas in a cartoon by the late Al Hirschfeld. Batboy, Urinetown, and The Producers are some recent high profile musicals noted for their cleverly integrated spoofery.

Composer-librettist Eric Rockwell and lyricist-librettist Joanne Bogart's The Musical of Musicals is a modest variant of this popular sport of putting on a show about other shows with amusingly naughty twists. In just a little more than an hour and a half, Rockwell and Bogart, who also make up half of the four-member cast, present five musicals parodying five very different styles. That means Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander and Ebb. The focus is on these men's best known shows, with others thrown into the mix.

Each mini-musical is built around the same plot: a maiden named June (or, depending upon which show is getting a ribbing, Jeune, Junie Faye, Junita or Jitter) is in distress because she can't pay the rent. To the rescue comes a Dear Abby style older woman (a.k.a. Mother Abby, Auntie Abby, Abigail Von Schurr and Fraulein Abby) and her beau Bill (a.k.a. Big Willy, Billy, William and Villy).

A proscenium imprinted with repeats of the "I can't pay the rent" story line, a backdrop for projecting the names of the musical greats whose style will be featured next, a few chairs and an upright piano played mostly by Rockwell, but with the other three cast members spelling him as needed. That's the extent of York artistic direct James Morgan's set. Black pants and shirts are John Carver Sullivan's costume contributions.

Bogart and Rockwell cheerfully poke fun at what's missing in the way of costumes and props, thus turning the bare bones staging to their advantage; for example, the nonstop poses and pretend costume changes of Joanne Bogart's "Dear Abby" in the Jerry Herman parody and the imaginary Phantom of the Opera chandelier felling Juanita when it's time to send up the endless reprises and Puccini borrowings of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

What give this little multi-musical its snap is that Rockwell and Bogart have a clear understanding of the musical giants who inspire them. They've also managed to make their source material easy to recognize -- more like the Monday New York Times Crossword puzzle than the later in the week ones -- and the repeats of the "I Can't Pay the Rent " theme create their own unifying rhythm without being repetitious. Not to be overlooked is the zest of the ensemble, especially the irrepressible, impish Lovette George who gets to play all June characters.

As with most satirical shows, some things work better than others. Except for the final Kander & Ebb combination of Cabaret and Chicago, in which Rockwell is a marvelously manic MC/ rent hungry landlord, each piece strikes a few flat notes. There's also the recognition factor. No one is likely to miss " Beautiful Corn" as Rockwell and Bogart's take on Oklahoma's "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning." However, the fine points that distinguish Sondheim from Herrman and the allusions to other shows sprinkled in with the main references are likely to appeal to those the performers admit in their finale they had in mind when they wrote the show, "the cognescenti." As if to prove this point, the couple sitting next to me seemed to enjoy themselves during Corn (The Rogers & Hammerstein Oklahoma spoof) but had a glazed look during A Little Complex (the Sondheim section) and dozed during Dear Abby (the Herrman act). They left at intermission -- but the "cognescenti" laughed appreciatively throughout and applauded madly when the lights dimmed.

After being dark longer than usual, it's good to see the York Theatre back in action and fulfilling their very worthy mission of producing new musicals.

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical)
Music by Eric Rockwell
Lyrics by Joanne Bogart
Book by Rockwell & Bogart. Director/Choreographer: Pamela Hunt
Cast: Joanne Bogart, Craig Fols, Lovette George, Eric Rockwell.
Set Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: John Carver Sullivan
Lighting Design: Mary Jo Dondlinger Sound Design: David Gotwald
Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes with one intermission
York Theatres, Saint Peter's, 619 Lexington (at 54th Street), 212-868-4444.
From 12/02/03 to 1/11/04-- extended to 1/25/04. Mon, Tue, Fri, Sat ! 8pm; Sun @7:30, Wed, Sat & Sun @ 2:30.
Tickets: $50 -- Students tickets are available on the day of the performance for $20, subject to availability.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 12/16 press performance
re-opened for a summer run ending 9/26/04

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