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Entertaining 'Musical of Musicals' plays on Broadway's appeal

Mike Dunham
Suzanne Snyder, Tyler Andrus, Jesse Cayne (back row) and Megan Perkins (front) are the song-slinging cast of the entertaining "Musical of Musicals: The Musical," running through July 26 at Anchorage Community Theatre. Photo courtesy Christine Markiewicz

“The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!” will impress everyone who loves musicals -- and delight everyone who hates them. The song-and-dance fest entertainingly and effectively spoofs the conventions of the genre by recapitulating the same plot five times in a row, each time using a style that parodies different Broadway giants.

The story is the old melodrama schtick: Girl (Megan Perkins) can’t pay the rent; villain (Jesse Cayne) says she must; at the last moment, hero (Tyler Andrus) pays the rent. In the middle of each crisis, the girl gets advice from an older, wiser woman (Suzanne Snyder).

In this show the repetition doesn’t get dull, partly because of how each retelling is tweaked, partly because the whole thing only lasts 90 minutes with intermission, but mainly because you’re laughing most of the time.

Rodgers and Hammerstein are first on the chopping block. “Corn” lampoons “Oklahoma!” and sets a pattern of exquisite puns and not-so-oblique references to other hits that continues through the performance. “Shucks, what beautiful corn!” sings the hero, referring to “a kernel of truth” stuck in his tooth. When he snaps, “OK! OK!” at his sweetheart, June, she retorts, “Don’t throw OKs at me.”

“A Little Complex,” the second skit, runs through the ouvre of Stephen Sondheim with nods to “A Little Night Music” and “Into the Woods” fitted into the murderous scheme of “Sweeney Todd.” The dialogue brims with lines like “I heard you making some specific overtures” and “A funny thing happened on the way to decorum.” The lyrics tie themselves in knots: “Abstruse” rhymes with “obtuse” and “screw loose.” And the music hilariously captures Sondheim’s one-note-shy-of-a-melody vocal writing.

That’s very hard to sing, by the way, and the cast did an excellent job of hitting their notes. All voices were on pitch, the diction clear and clean. The women, in particular, had breath control that indicated some real musical training. With Ernie Piper IV at the keyboard (it’s not clear how much he was actually playing and how much was pre-programmed), joining in the ensembles, shouting stage directions and introductions, and even managing props from time to time, this production was a musical pleasure. 

Great musical theater, like great theater in general, tends to elevate or enlighten. This “Musical” does none of that. What it does really well, however, is entertain. It also educates by calling on the audience to look at why we fall, over and over again, for predictable tactics.

The obligatory Rodgers and Hammerstein ballet, “sort of run of DeMille,” pops up, along with their obligatory big alto anthem; in this case it combines “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Bali Ha’i.” 

“Dear Abby,” the send-up of Jerry Herman shows (“Hello, Dolly,” “Mame,” “La Cage Aux Folles”) has the iconic leading lady changing costumes 40 times and being applauded for every entrance and exit whether she does anything or not.

In the Andrew Lloyd Webber bit, it’s noted that the audience applauds scene changes and technical effects. More telling is the main tune and lyric, “I’ve Heard That Song Before,” making fun of Webber’s tendency to roll one catchy number through his musicals repeatedly. While roughly based on “Evita,” it also flows into “Phantom of the Opera,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and, yes, “Cats,” sometimes splicing two Webber shows together. “You’re a cat of many colors,” one character is told. 

The fifth piece mashes “Cabaret” and “Chicago” together in a send-up of Kander and Ebb (who also wrote “New York, New York”). The girl still can’t pay the rent but this time the wise alto uses her big anthem to persuade her to sell her body. 

An epilogue reference to “A Chorus Line” has the cast singing a dance number titled “Done” in which they note that we’ve been seeing the same show, more or less, for hundreds of years and keep going back.

Yeah, it’s not “Hamlet.” But “Musical of Musicals” is worth going back for.

“The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!,” a production of Midnight Sun Theatre, directed by David Block, will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through July 26 at Anchorage Community Theatre, 1133 E. 70th Ave. Tickets are available by calling 868-4913.

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.