Volume III, Issue II Summer 2004

'The Musical of Musicals (The Musical)' a witty satire of the genre

Spoofs and puns float through tale of destitute heroine and nasty landlord

By Lucy Komisar


The Musical of Musicals (The Musical)
Book by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart
Music by Eric Rockwell
Lyrics by Joanne Bogart
Directed and choreographed by Pamela Hunt

York Theatre at Saint Peter's Church
619 Lexington (at 54th Street)

My favorite section of Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell's riotously witty satire is the section inspired by Stephen Sondheim, which I hope that great composer-lyricist has seen. He is the missing hero of one of a series of musical vignettes which ostensibly tell the story of a young lady who can't pay the rent. Four multi-talented actors (they sing, they dance, they play the piano, they deadpan comedy) are named Irony, Ambiguity, Dissonance and Angst, and they invite us to "our complex – our apartment complex, The Woods."

The music is atonal, dark – absolutely Sondheim. The lyrics are spoofily sophisticated: "I've no money, que será, que Seurat!" And to "the heavy," who has money to advance in exchange for accepting his advances: "You were making some pretty sPacific Overtures."

Then there's a Kander & Ebb section about a young woman who can't pay the rent. Okay, you've guessed it. The shtick is that there's a gruel thin plot that is staged five times in the idiom of five favorite musical writers or teams: Sondheim, Kander & Ebb, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Jerry Herman. Pamela Hunt directs and choreographs at a bright and fast pace, with actors making entrances and exits in what sometimes seems like double time.

The Musical of Musicals
The cast of 'The Musical of Musicals'
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Lovette George is a perky June (or Jeune, or Junie Faye or Junita or Juny). In all incarnations, she has a thrilling soprano. Joanne Bogart is Abby (or Mother Abby, or Auntie, or Abigal Von Schtarr or Fraulein Abby) who comes to offer aid and advice à la Dear Abby, along with boyfriend Bill or Willy or Villy, etc. (Craig Fols). Rockwell is the piano player and also the landlord, who will forgive the rent if June (et al) marries him.

Bogart's lyrics are clever and sharp, cutting America's musical idols down to size. Take Rodgers & Hammerstein: "Oh what beautiful corn! The wind whispers secrets. The field is all ears!" In homage to the corn, there's an "I don't love you" song. And a character declaims, "Don't throw okays at me!" The choreography of one show is described as "a run of De Mille ballet." Yes, lots of puns!

In the Kander & Ebb piece inspired by the opening of "Cabaret," Wilkommen(in German) is followed by "Hasta la vista and Erin Go Bragh, Gezuntheit and Que será será." And "Life is a cabernet." Well, it is a speakeasy. "Sell Your Body," Fraulein Abby counsels eviction-prone Juny. And those "Chicago" Fosse dancers!

When Andrew Lloyd Webber's moment arrives, the cast pushes the piano into puffs of smoke. Rockwell sings, "If you heard the song before, you will hear it even more ... It might sound just a teeny like something like Puccini. Who would sue? It's just a case of déjà vu, this wretched recitative." Well, maybe Junita should sue after she is knocked flat by the falling chandelier. Rockwell, by the way, has great style and panache.

Jerry Herman's moment is full of a prancing chorus and meaningless text – a star vehicle. The pianist (Rockwell) describes how "The audience, led by gay men, rises to their feet."

So will you, of whatever persuasion. This kind of on-the-mark wit and tuneful parody is great fun, though it helps a lot if you've seen musical targets.

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