In a departure from the expected musical reviews Quality Hill Playhouse usually presents, the newest production, “Musical of Musicals” pokes fun at five different Broadway composers and composer teams, in a laugh-filled tongue-in-cheek show.
Executive producer and showman deluxe, J. Kent Barnhart, decided to stray from his standard fare of self-conceived, original, musical explorations to present a “book” show. Barnhart, known for his black tuxedo style productions, that both entertain and educate audiences on the music of each production, departed from his norm with “Musical of Musicals.” Barnhart played the keyboards and portrayed a dead-pan narrator/accompanist for the quartet of singers.
Barnhart’s keyboard mastery provided the sole background for the show, but his disinterested narration made his audience laugh and applaud throughout the show. Even though composers vary their tempos, rhythms, and sounds, none pushed the keyboard skills of Barnhart as he played the score with ease.
“Musical of Musicals” parodies the famous Broadway composers and lampoons their signature shows. Music in the style of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander and Ebb made up the show. The book, music and lyrics penned by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart slings musical caricatures at the aforementioned Broadway phonemes.
Barnhart manned the keyboard, but the myriad of characters played by ensemble cast kept the audience laughing and thinking throughout the show. Jon Daugharthy, Ashley Pankow, Tim Scott, and Julie Shaw performed flawlessly, and with musical numbers new to them.
For audience members unfamiliar with the Broadway songbook, the show was entertaining enough to stand alone. For those who follow Broadway shows, their minds remained challenged throughout. Figuring out what song or show was being harpooned was fun.
Act I opened with fun versions of the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s shows “Oklahoma!” “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” “The Sound of Music,” “The King and I,” and “Flower Drum Song.” Characters included Big Willy, Aunt Abby, June, and Jidder. Jon Daugharthy strutted and mugged and pranced and posed as the caricature of Curly, Billy, the king, and others. Pankow played demure, sweet, damsel-in-distress character of R&H fame. Shaw played the older-but wiser characters like Aunt Eller, Mother Abyss, Bloody Mary, etc. Scott played the villains–if there are truly villains in R&H musicals. The opening fictional show, “Corn,” was just that, corny–yet hilarious.
After establishing the plot line in the take-off in “Oklahoma!” the other shows followed the save story line, but in the musical style of the various composers. Daugharthy continued as the leading man; Pankow as the young lady who needs to find a way to pay the rent; Shaw continued mostly as the “mentor” of the ingenue, and Scott play the evil landlord.
Stephen Sondheim’s musicals came up for laughs in the second set. Some of his works parodied included: “Follies,” “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Into the Woods,” and “Sunday in the Park with George,” among others. Same story line but different characters and musical treatment make this a fun piece as well.
The spin on Jerry Herman made references mostly to “Hello, Dolly!” and “Mame.” Again, references to famous lines in his shows and music in the style of Herman entertained the audience. Shaw stood out in this set as Herman’s lead characters of Dolly and Mame. And, again, the same story was forced into this sequence.
Act II brought more of the same, but in this act, darker characters shone as the lead. Here Tim Scott flexed his humor with caricatures of the Phantom from “Phantom of the Opera” and the Master of Ceremonies from “Cabaret.” Scott showed his flair for comedy.
Andrew Lloyd Weber never drew so many laughs as did this compilation of his shows. “Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita,” “Cats,” “Starlight Express,” and “Sunset Boulevard” all got jabbed. The characters were twisted and exaggerated into cartoons. Give lots of credit to Scott and Shaw for their part of this set.
Final set, illuminated the works of Kander and Ebb, with “tributes” to their most famous shows, “Chicago,” “Cabaret,” and “Liza with a Z.” Again, Pankow shined bright in her bits in this set–especially the “Liza with a Z” music.
All in all, the show is a success from the pre-show recorded narration of Tim Noland to the final bows of Barnhard and the four performers. Difficulty comes in describing the show to others because it’s all fun and games. Each performer displayed fabulous vocals and wonderful acting as they clowned through each set. Each performer showed a humor not generally seen in Quality Hill shows. “Musical of Musicals” featured a cornucopia of mirth taking pokes at some of America’s best songwriters.
Don’t miss the show if you like to laugh. Don’t miss this show if you like Broadway musicals. Don’t miss this show if you like well-written humor. It’s a great evening of entertainment and features four top notch singers and the ever-pleasing host. The show comes with the highest recommendations.