Reviewed by Mara Guyer My sister and I talk every day – but when we’re…
Got musical theatre nerds in the family? They’re in for a fun time.
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical) is the show to see to get your geek on. The musical (of course!), playing through August 19 at Swift Creek Mill Playhouse, is comprised of five musical scenes which all have the same basic plot set in the style of a well-known Broadway composer.
The plot: Our heroine, June (or some variation thereof) cannot pay her rent. The dastardly landlord, Jidder, says she can marry him to avoid eviction. Our dashing young hero, Big Willy (or Villy or William or something similar) swoops in to June’s rescue. And older woman Abby gives advice and occasionally jumps in from the sidelines.
Act One throws us into the style of classic Rodgers and Hammerstein. Titled “Corn,” it’s modeled after Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, The King and I, and other shows. It is – appropriately – very corny (yes, even with ears of corn dropping from the sky), with some easy targets and groan-inducing puns.
After our heroes prevail in the first section, the next scene, “A Little Complex,” begins a la Stephen Sondheim. Here, Jidder is not only a landlord, but an artist and murderer (weaving in Into The Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd, among others), who plots to turn tenants into papier mâché.
Scene Three, called “Dear Abby,” is homage to Jerry Herman, featuring shows like Hello Dolly and Mame.
Act Two continues the spoof, kicking off with Andrew Lloyd Webber-inspired madness that includes riffs on Evita and Starlight Express. Spoiler: the Phantom of the Opera is unmasked and turns out to be – horrors! – a cat.
And the show wraps up with a decadent Speakeasy in the style of Kander and Ebb, tied together in a glitzy cabaret.
The four actors do a wonderful job of playing multiple characters with only minimal props and costume changes to herald each new role. Paige Reisenfeld, who has a lovely voice, is delightful as ingénue June, and Derrick Jaques can play dashing hero and goofy sideman with equal charm. David Atkins, making his professional debut in this production, isn’t particularly sinister, but does a great job as our villain, with hilarious mannerisms. And Caroline Whisnant’s amazing voice shone in numbers such as “Follow Your Dream” and “Over the Top.”
The cast looked to be having as much fun as the audience. A special shout-out to music director Paul Deiss, for coordinating so many songs and styles, and for his piano skills throughout the show.
Director Tom Width, who has been involved with hundreds of musicals during his tenure at the Mill, noted that he had a ball digging into all the bits and pieces of musicals that writers Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell layered into the show. Musical theater lovers of any age will love the chance to do the same.
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical) runs through August 19 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Jefferson Davis Highway in Colonial Heights. For showtimes and tickets, visit swiftcreekmill.com or call 804-748-5203.