Theater Review: “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)”
“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” Photo Credit: John MacLellan.
Pianist Kimberly Fox walks on stage carrying a martini, sits down, takes a drink, then takes another, and perhaps one more. She begins to narrate the stage directions with a dry, detached tone – the show’s already a sensation! – and it’s Richmond Triangle Players’ “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” with the music by Eric Rockwell and lyrics by Joanne Bogart amusingly harmonized into hummable show tunes under director Julie Fulcher-Davis.
And the show tunes are lampoons of the styles of the greatest Broadway composers: Rogers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander & Ebb, each with an act dedicated to “In the style of [insert composer’s name].” Favorite acts include “Corn!” (a riff off of “Oklahoma”) and “Aspects of Junita” (it’s sort of like “Evita”!).
Yet I suppose every musical requires a storyline, so each act works with the following idea: “You must pay the rent,” “I can’t pay the rent!” Shocker – actors can’t pay the rent, but this plot starts to steadily deflate like a beach ball hit too many times and grows tiresome by the end.
However the ensemble is tiny – only 4 nimble actors wearing all black by costume designer Alex Valentin – but the humor is enormous, with lyrics like “Follow your dream until you die,” and “Life’s a cabernet” – ain’t that the truth ladies! – eliciting musical sheet after musical sheet of laughter.
Lanaya Burnette plays June – the girl who just can’t ever seem to pay her darn rent – with her usual, awkwardly funny stupendousness. Craig Smith portrays Jidder – the nefarious landlord who’s creepy and lusts over June – with a sinister tone scene after scene. Jacqueline O’Connor plays Abby and delivers an excellent performance in multiple roles, particularly as Mother Abby in Corn! Lastly, the standout Fernando Rivadeneira plays Willy – the hero who somehow gets the rent paid – with the vocal chords to make “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” worthy of its exclamation point.
Ann C. Easterling’s facetious choreography includes many styles of Broadway dance, while set designer T. Ross Aitken keeps the set economical, embroidering the sides of the stage with pillars on which the masks of tragedy and comedy rest – one to each side.
Interesting note: as you watch the performance you’ll start to realize that you are more familiar with the work of certain composers. I can say that I know Andrew Lloyd Webber far too well.
But admittedly, even the narrator – Ms. Fox over there still sipping on her martini – says, “This is too long.” True, this 2-hour musical felt much longer than a 2-hour musical does – “It’s overdone,” the cast sings. Perhaps this cast can’t pay the rent, but they surely aren’t clueless.
“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” runs through June 2 at Richmond Triangle Players. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.rtriangle.org/
Matthew Miller is the former arts editor and chief theater critic for GAYRVA.com. A Chicago native, he holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently resides in Richmond, VA and is a member of the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Matthew Miller on Twitter twitter.com/matthewkmiller
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