“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)”, the cheeky 2003 off-Broadway show with book and music by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart, is currently on the boards at the Legacy Theatre. The small-scale musical is a good fit for the jewel box Branford theatre requiring only a single set, one piano and four actors. And, at the performance I attended, the happy audience was clearly in musical comedy heaven.
Structured into five acts (no intermission), each of which is a short musical parody in the style of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Kander & Ebb, Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman, there is ultimately something a little smug about this 90 minute entertainment. Stealing liberally from Gerard Alessandrini’s far better “Forbidden Broadway” series that has been mocking Broadway musicals since 1982, Rockwell and Bogart’s efforts seems strained and obvious, reminiscent of a sophomoric college fraternity show. There is the odd clever idea here and there, some tuneful songs and plenty of groan-inducing puns in “The Musical of Musicals”, but all of it seems to be very pleased with itself performed by a cast trying very, very hard.
At the Legacy, the company of four include Randall Delone Adkison, Keely Baisden, Karl Gasteyer and Stephanie Stiefel Williams. The actors are all game and are not without talent. Fine vocally without being great, each performer has moments when they are allowed to shine, times when the material isn’t overwhelming their performance. Baisden is funny playing the Mother Abbess role from “The Sound of Music” and even better as the “Mame” figure from Jerry Herman’s classic making a grand entrance from the back of the house for no apparent reason. Karl Gasteyer, comfortable sucking all the oxygen on stage, is clearly a clown of the first order especially in his “Cabaret” homage playing a depraved Master of Ceremonies.
Some of the satire works better than others. The weakest may be the Sondheim section probably because irony is harder to satirize or, at least, it is here. I thought the Jerry Herman section came off best mostly due to Baisden’s glorious overacting. Adkison is an amusing blowhard as the romantic lead in the “Oklahoma” riff with his opening number, “Corn” and Williams garners big laughs late in the musical with her take on Minnelli’s signature tune, “Liza with a Z”.
The serviceable choreography by Paola Pacheco Rarick hadn’t quite been mastered yet by the cast at the performance I caught. This is especially notable in the Kander & Ebb section where Bob Fosse’s legendary dance routines lacked precision. The simple set is a disappointment for resident designer Jamie Burnett who has previously provided one impressive scenic design after another at Legacy. Jimmy Johansmeyer has more luck costuming the company with just enough creative contributions to match the parody.
“The Musical of Musicals” (The Musical!) continues at the Legacy Theatre, 128 Thimble Island Road, Branford, Connecticut through July 30. For further information, call: (203) 315-1901 or visit: www.legacytheatrect.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.