Photo courtesy of ROSALYN SAVEL/WEST COAST PLAYERS
Dave Russell portrays Phantom Jitter and Amy Dobbert is Junita in the mini-musical “Aspects of Junita,” done in the style of Andrew Lloyd Webber, in “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” running through Nov. 24 at West Coast Players in Clearwater.
It was a surprise to see West Coast Players include a musical on its 2013-14 season schedule.
It isn’t the first time West Coast Players has staged a musical, but it isn’t something the theater is necessarily known for doing on a regular basis.
WCP is known for taking chances, though – and for bringing to the stage productions that are at times bold, often unconventional and sometimes a bit cheeky.
“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” fits that last descriptor perfectly and, as such, is a perfect fit for WCP.
The show runs through Nov. 24 at West Coast Players, 21905 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 2 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 437-2363 or visit www.wcplayers.org.
Be forewarned: There’s little spectacle in “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” – instead, it’s all about melodic parodies. The stage is sparsely adorned with only rudimentary props. The recurring melodramatic plot is drolly simplistic.
The show is a clever concoction written by composer Eric Rockwell and lyricist Joanne Bogart. The two take to task some of the true titans of musical theater, lampooning their signature styles. Their targets include Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and John Kander and Fred Ebb.
“Back in 2005, I saw this show in New York in a tiny off-Broadway theater,” writes director Domenic Bisesti in his message to the audience. “Having grown up loving musicals, all the references and one-liners made a night full of memories and recollections. I hope that we are recreating the magic I felt all those years ago.”
Bisesti and his fine cast do more than just evoke memories. WCP’s production of “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” is wildly entertaining, full of zany characters and affectionate satire.
“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” is divided into five mini-musicals, each revolving around the same story but boasting a different musical style. The story is about a young woman – the ingénue – who can’t pay her rent. The villain is a dastardly landlord. There’s a hero, of course, as well as a matron – an older woman who offers advice of varying value to the leading lady.
Amy Dobbert plays the ingénue.
Dobbert recently won a STAR Award for Favorite Actress in Musical for her performance in Eight O’Clock Theatre’s production of “Forbidden Broadway,” another show that lampoons Broadway’s greatest musical legends. In this production, she is just as enjoyable and effective. In her role, Dobbert has a wide array of personalities to portray, from the unsophisticated June in “Corn,” in the style of Rodgers and Hammerstein, to the wicked Juny in “Speakeasy,” in the style of Kander and Ebb.
The matron is portrayed by Susan Jones Williams.
Williams has apparently been away from the stage for some time. She pursued a full time career as a vocalist, raised a family and sang at the Wine Cellar for 16 years. In this production of “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” she gives little doubt that she still has what it takes to make it in theater.
Brian Chunn does a great job depicting the multiple faces of the story’s hero. In “Corn,” he is hysterically goofy as Big Willy and blissfully brooding in “A Little Complex,” in the style of Stephen Sondheim.
Dave Russell’s villain is consistently naughty, ranging from devious to criminally insane depending upon the sequence. Russell serves up a hilariously twisted phantom of the opera and a thoroughly naughty – and multilingual – cabaret master of ceremonies in “Speakeasy.”
Bisesti is omnipresent, acting as narrator. He’s particularly playful with his cast (and with Eriene LeGendre, the show’s musical director and pianist), which is a constant reminder that the “The Musical of Musical (The Musical!)” exists to poke fun at the genre as well as those who perpetuate it. The final number, “Done,” even sends up the audience to some degree.
Even though it’s a parody, the show is demanding: The cast proves its versatility crafting different aspects of the archetypes. Each member possesses spot-on comic timing. As vocalists, they all do a marvelous job.
The wonderfully overstated characters and inspired comical lyrics simultaneously satirize and pay homage to Broadway’s musical icons. Granted, those not familiar with the source material may not get all the references – but “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical)” is still witty enough with its discordant puns and comical caricatures to induce plenty of laughs. The show is delectable silliness and classy spoof – a fun treat featuring some very talented individuals.