Moonbox’s ‘Musical’: Talent, energy and enthusiasm
BOSTON — When energy, enthusiasm and talent all converge in one place, you get a show like Moonbox Productions’ production of “The Musical of Musicals (the Musical),” now being performed through Dec. 20 at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts on Tremont Street.
Moonbox, now in its fifth season, made a wise choice with its pick of the work of composer Eric Rockwell and lyricist Joanne Bogart, a clever, ironic, telling, funny series of parodies of five of the most famous composers or teams in Broadway musical history — Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander & Ebb.
The hook at the beginning of the show is that the performers haven’t actually secured the rights to perform the actual music, so it is decided the songs will be presented “in the style of” or “a la” a certain composer, instead of the actual compositions.
That provides the opening to do riffs on “Oklahoma” in the Rodgers-Hammerstein “Corn” segment, a hilarious mash-up of “Oklahoma” meets “Carousel” meets “The Sound of Music.”
The show takes one basic plot and weaves if through all five musical “tributes.” Phil Tayler is the villainous landlord Jitter — think Rod Steiger as Jigger in “Oklahoma” — or some derivative thereof, always demanding the rent or something else (carnal) in exchange; Katie Clark is the heroine June (and other similarly named characters), who will spend much of her time fending off Jitter‘s advances; Peter Mill is Bill, who will occasionally step in and save June from Jitter; and Abby (Meredith Stypinski) will offer sage advice from nearby in a variety of roles, including the Mother Abbess from “the Sound of Music,” the Elaine Stritch role in “Company” and as Mame herself in the hilariously-named “Did I Put Out Enough.”
They are augmented by a talented ensemble that includes Julianne Daly, Nick Davis, Matthew Kossack, Caroline Lellouche, Allison Russell, Andrew Winans.
My personal favorite was Tayler as a raucous, raunchy Emcee in a “Cabaret” takeoff moved to Chicago and dubbed “Speakeasy.”
The show demands that you listen closely lest you miss a one-liner or a passing reference to yet another show or song. Take the Sondheim-themed “A Little Complex,” when the lyric “Que Sera, Seurat,” is a whippet-quick reference to “Sunday in the Park with George.”
Music Director Dan Rodriguez is frantically facile in the quest to keep up with the doings on stage, and Director and Choreographer Rachel Bertone keeps the pace beyond brisk and her foot on the throttle in the production numbers until the wonderful finale, “Done,” a tribute to a certain hit tune from “A Chorus Line.”
You don’t have to be an expert on Broadway shows to enjoy “the Musical of Musicals,” although the more you do know, the more fun you might have. Even if your Theater IQ is close to zero, you’ll be entertained and dazzled by the singing and dancing, the energy and enthusiasm, and the cleverness.
Moonbox Productions’ production of “The Musical of Musicals: The Musical” at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts through Dec. 20. Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone. moonbox productions.org.