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Paulanne Simmons

Making fun of (and having fun with) the Musicals

"The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!""
Directed and Choreographed by Pamela Hunt
Presented by The New York Theatre Company and Melanie Herman at Dodger Stages
340 West 59th St. between Eighth and Ninth aves.
Opened Feb 2, 2005, open-ended
Tues. - Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 4 p.m., 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m, 7 p.m.
$56 - $60.50 (212) 239-6200
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons April 6, 2005

It has been said that there are two ways to make people laugh - surprise them or show them something they recognize. In "The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!" Eric Rockwell (book and music) and Joanne Bogart (Book and lyrics) have handily combined both to create a show that is certainly a crowd-pleaser.

There may not be much that's original, but there's definitely lots of creativity at Dodger Stages. Using the standard "give me the rent" theme, Rockwell and Bogart tell the story in the style of three well known musical theater composers and lyricists. But what makes the production work is their uncanny ability to cut to the essence of each style and then push it to its hilarious extreme.

There's Rodgers and Hammerstein's formulaic approach (the expansive introduction, the I'm not in love song, the inspirational hymn, the soliloquy/dream sequence, the rousing finale) in "Corn"; Stephen Sondheim's cerebral obscurity, clever lyrics and music without melody in "A Little Complex"; Jerry Herman's divas with their entourage in "Dear Abby"; Andrew Lloyd Webber's pyrotechnics and operatic pretensions in "Aspects of Junita" and Kander and Ebb's sophisticated naughtiness in "Speakeasy."

The Musical of Musicals - The Musical! is performed by a cast of two women (Lovette George and Joanne Bogart) and two men (Eric Rockwell and Craig Fols).

Rockwell (also at the piano) plays the bad guy - Jidder (Corn), Jitter (A Little Complex), Mr. Jitters (Dear Abby), Phantom Jitter (Aspects of Junita) and Jutter (Speakeasy).

Fols is the hero - Big Willy (Corn), Billy (A Little Complex)), William (Dear Abby), Bill (Aspects of Junita) and Villy (Speakeasy).

George is the damsel in distress - June (Corn), Jeune (A Little Complex), Junie Faye (Dear Abby), Junita (Aspects of Junita) and Juny (Speakeasy).

Bogart is the wise older woman - Mother Abby (Corn), Abby (A Little Complex), Auntie Abby (Dear Abby), Abigail Von Schtarr (Aspects of Junita) and Fraulein Abby (Speakeasy).

Just the names give the picture.

There's almost no scenery in this production and not much in the way of costumes. If it weren't for the fine performances (Bogart is exceptionally funny and outrageous) and Pamela Hunt's tongue-in-cheek direction, The Musical of Musicals - The Musical! might resemble a high school skit.

No doubt people who enjoy this show the most are those most familiar with the idiom referenced. But for some reason, the names of the composers and lyricists parodied are projected onto a screen before each vignette. This seems a little unnecessary as most people who decide to see this show will probably be knowledgeable enough to get the joke, and if they don't they most likely won't enjoy the show anyway.

Hunt could have had more faith in her own material and audience. The tunes, the talent, even the lighting make it perfectly clear what's going on. And for a New York audience…well, figuring it out is child's play.

Go see "The Musical of Musicals - The Musical" and enjoy the fun.[Simmons]


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