Instead of Agnes de Mille’s ballet from “Oklahoma,” there’s a “run-of-de-mill” ballet in “The Musicals of Musicals (The Musical)” by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart, now playing at TheatreWorks New Milford. Whether this satirical tribute to musicals has its cast singing “You’re high as an elephant’s eye” or turning a prop cart into a gondola in a foggy scene, audiences can’t help but laugh out loud. Superbly directed by Bradford Blake, this super talented foursome turns one hilarious musical into five.
It all starts when one of the four actors can’t pay her rent. And so they wonder how five great men of the musical theater might interpret that dismal situation. Highly stylized, two acts divided into five segments turn that question into outstanding parody.
“Corn” is the first scene. This is “In the Style of Rodgers & Hammerstein” and opens with Priscilla Squiers wearing an old shawl and shucking corn. Though it looks like a scene from “Oklahoma,” it only suggests the dialogue and songs associated with “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” and “The King and I.” Where one would expect Squiers, who is simply sensational as Mother Abby, to sing “Follow every rainbow, ‘til you find your dream,” she sings instead “Follow every dream until you die.”
Tom Denihan could give the battery bunny a run for its money. He’s non-stop action in all his roles. However, as he steps into “Carousel” and thinks about the possibility of having a son,” he’s absolutely hilarious.
After doing a parody on Rodgers and Hammerstein, the four actors step into Scene Two, aptly titled “A Little Complex” because this is “In the Style of Stephen Sondheim. “Into the Woods,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “Company,” to name a few of the musicals represented here, are cleverly portrayed.
After taking on a segment “In the Style of Jerry Herman,” Jessica Smith comes into her own as she steps not into “Evita,” but into “Junita.” This scene is “In the Style of Andrew Lloyd Webber” and features minced words and lyrics from “Evita,” “Cats,” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” as well as other Webber hits.
Jonathan Jacobson is terrific in all his many roles and especially as Sir Phantom. By the time this perfectly matched cast gets to step “In the Style of Kander & Ebb,” the audience is ready for anything. And that’s just what they get in scenes resembling “Chicago” and “Cabaret.”
Overall, this is a most entertaining and outstanding production. Bradford Blake is so talented that he can perform well as director, musical director, choreographer, actor, and singer/dancer. As an added bonus, he designed the set, which is as functional as it is fun. While regular theater-goers will quickly recognize the shows that are being parodied, that is not a requirement for fully enjoying this hilarious, lift-your-spirits, and laugh-out-loud production. End the old or welcome the new year with this winner playing through Jan. 5. Box office: 860-350-6863.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association, and covers art and culture in a blog for CBS and CBS-CT. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]