Musical theater junkies will appreciate it the most, but those less familiar with the genre will nevertheless benefit from the pure entertainment value of “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!).” Presented by Actors Theatre of Indiana, the production parodies the styles of five musical theater composers. Seen Sunday, the show opened Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 24 at the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
Directed by Indiana Repertory Theatre dramaturg Richard Roberts, the cast consists of ATI founders Cynthia Collins, Don Farrell and Judy Fitzgerald, as well as popular local actor Dave Ruark.
“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart, premiered on Off-Broadway in 2003.
The show consists of five short musicals: “Corn,” “A Little Complex,” “Dear Abby,” “Aspects of Junita” and “Speakeasy.” They brilliantly spoof the style of composers Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb, respectively.
Referenced throughout these shorts within the show are music and parodied lyrics from the composers’ most well-known works, such as Rodgers & Hammerstein's “Oklahoma,” “The Sound of Music” and “Carousel”; Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Company”; Jerry Herman’s “Mame,” “Hello Dolly” and “Les Cage Aux Folles”; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Sunset Boulevard”; and Kander & Ebb’s “Chicago," “Cabaret" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman."
The mini-musicals all feature stock characters and share the same melodramatic plot. They all involve an ingénue (Collins) who can’t pay her rent, a villainous landlord (Farrell) who makes demands, a hero (Ruark) and romantic interest who rescues her by paying her rent, and a wise matron (Fitzgerald) who she turns to for advice.
Integral to the show was pianist Brent Marty, who is also its musical director. Positioned on the stage, Marty introduced each act prior to accompanying the performers. He also hilariously participated in and reacted to the campy proceedings that affectionately mocked the work of the selected musical theater geniuses.
As far as the four performers, who continuously transformed throughout the show, they were not only masterful in conveying both the musical and dramatic style of each of the composer’s satirized work, but they also displayed considerable individual talent at executing the show’s numerous sight gags and physical comedy. Each performer also possessed a gift for timing that was consistently spot on.
Also proficient as dancers, the performers excelled at moving to Michael Worcel’s fine choreography that mimicked the original choreography of each musical referenced.
Of the four, the animated Collins was the most versatile, showing a superb vocal range as she wondrously spoofed the characters of Julie Jordan ("Carousel") Evita ("Evita") and Sally Bowles ("Cabaret").
Farrell also shone in his sendup of the Phantom ("The Phantom of the Opera") and MC ("Cabaret"), as did Fitzgerald as Norma Desmond ("Sunset Boulevard") and Mame ("Mame"), and Ruark as Molina ("Kiss of the Spider Woman") and Billy Bigelow ("Carousel").
Deserving of plaudits as well are Gary DeMumbrum’s lighting design, which replicated the look of each of the shows referenced; Bernie Killian’s cartoon-like recreation of the Carmel City Center, which incorporated signs featuring logos for each of the five vignettes; and Margaret Ozemet’s often over-the-top, clever costumes and accessories, which made each satirized character clearly recognizable.
For tickets and information about Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” call (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.
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