‘The Musical of Musicals’ – Smart, Hilarious Fun (5 Stars)

‘The Musical of Musicals, The Musical!’ Music by Eric Rockwell, Lyrics by Joanne Bogart. Book by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart. Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone. Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez. Presented by Moonbox Productions, BCA Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont Street Boston through December 20.

How many times do you go to a play and laugh out loud, pretty much throughout? Not many, which is why “The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!” is a must-see for anyone who’s ever been a fan of musical theater. In the songwriting vein of Monty Python’s spoof The Rutles, “The Musical of Musicals” is a loving and hilarious send up of five popular Broadway composers and songwriting teams.

The play begins with ensemble member Matthew Kossack (whose facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission) introducing the show, a musical tribute to some of Broadway’s most prolific composers – Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kandor and Ebb, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It turns out that the theater in the play has not managed to secure the rights to the music, so a makeshift show is conceived, done in the style of these composers. A plot is improvised – June, a beautiful blonde (the expressive and wigged Katie Clark) who can’t pay rent, evil landlord Jitter (the hilarious Phil Tayler) who threatens to marry and/or kill her, and reluctant hero Bill (the talented Peter Mill) who saves the day. Abby, played by versatile Meredith Stypinski, represents a variety of single gal roles, from spinster aunt to Mother Abbess. The plot is used again and again over the course of five scenes, one for each musical style.

It is hard to pinpoint which scenes worked best, because honestly, they were all so damn funny and accurate. The Rodgers and Hammerstein parody begins in the style of “Oklahoma”, with Bill, renamed Big Willy, singing a rousing number called “Oh, What Beautiful Corn”. Peter Mill has an impressive singing voice, as well as an instinctive feel for the genre. A few numbers a la “Carousel” are also woven into the plot, including a side-splitting “Delicious Clam Dip”. The Sondheim send up has the actors dressed in black, each with a handheld musical instrument reminiscent of the last Broadway “Company” revival, looking brooding and intense. Scene three is devoted to Jerry Herman, and features a glamorous Abby, doing very little but changing costumes and sweeping her arms, while the chorus boys and girls (think “Mame” and “Hello Dolly”) dance frantically around her. Andrew Lloyd Webber gets his in scene four, with a comical mash-up of “Evita” (called “Juanita” in the play), “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” , “Phantom of the Opera”, “Cats”, and “Sunset Boulevard”, and a surprise “Starlight Express” twist.

The last scene belongs to Kandor and Ebb, as Paul Taylor dons a wife beater and black pants for a hilarious turn as the Emcee from “Cabaret” (with some “Chicago” thrown in).

Rachel Bertone’s direction keeps the play moving, and manages to give it texture, which isn’t easy with parody. The cast is superb, and the ensemble, energetic and adaptable. The night I went to this show, protests were happening downtown and I was feeling a little dispirited. “The Musical of Musicals” lifted my mood right out of the gate and kept it there. I kept thinking, I have to tell all of my friends to see this, including YOU! Go see this show! For more info, go to: http://moonboxproductions.org/