The Musical of Musicals: The Musical

The Musical of Musicals: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart. Everyman Theatre, directed by Duncan Ley and Duncan Driver. Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre. 5–21 December 2013

With amusing narration by co-director Duncan Driver and keyboard accompaniment by an uncredited musician, this creative piece compels its four cast members to sing their lines, and to dance them as well, on a set rich in visual reminders of classic musicals. The format consisted in offering the same simple story line in five different treatments that effectively pay tongue-in-cheek homage to five greats of musical theatre: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander & Ebb.

You'll find it amusing to pick out at least some of the particular musicals that this musical of musicals' songs echo; I thought I detected traces of shows unmentioned in this show's marketing, including Chicago and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. You'll enjoy echoes of your own best-known show tunes. The musical accompaniment, live on piano and keyboard, was, surprisingly, enough to complement the cast's four-part vocal harmonies, which were unerringly accurate despite sometimes atonality and harmonic complexity and despite there being in evidence no acoustic monitors using which the singers could keep themselves in tune.

The real charm of this piece lies in the cheekiness with which it makes fun of the very shows it tips its hat to, as in overblowing the sunny optimism of Oklahoma!, treating Maria's musical joie de vivre in The Sound of Music as deserving fully three seconds' emulation, and outdoing the instantaneous energy production of Mame and Hello, Dolly! in short bites of big song-and-dance numbers. Certainly this charm is due in large part to the narrative; but its spirit of fun in overdoing everything is highly infectious. It's a worthwhile frolic.

John P. Harvey

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