The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)

5
Mon, 26th Nov 18
A musical of the musicals at Above the Stag.

There's plenty of razzmatazz in lights and costume to let The Musical of Musicals (the musical) soar and the performances are zestful. We see the basic story of young boy and girl’s love challenged by the evil landlord demanding rent reinvented five times in the styles of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, and Kander & Ebb. Surprisingly, this ridiculous idea is hugely entertaining if you love musical theatre. The book is wry, clever, witty in the way of American writers, and the score quotes and echoes the originals to satisfying effect.

Each section drips with irreverent references to its composer. Beginning with Rodgers & Hammerstein we leap from Oklahoma to Carousel, with Sound of Music et al in between. Sev Keoshgerian revels in this section especially in his sung monologue. The dream ballet with Charlotte Christensen reveals their dance skills to be high – there is a judicious spread of concise choreography placed through the show. Christensen shines as Evita finding more depth than her initial ingenue role allows, as her character suffers through each retelling of the story. Her wicked "Junie with a J not Gooni with a G" allows a pleasing nod to Lisa.

James Thackeray has a great voice and presence as the villain; he could rely on that more and could hold back on exaggeration which borders on ham. Less could be much more in his performance.

Cecily Redman is the revelation of the show. She gives a lesson in how to go to the top without going over. She wrings every suggestion of comedy and effect from each of her characters from "Climb every walk through the storm" to "Over the top" – perfect delivery, beautiful finesse. There are so many references which they deliver with great skill: "Drip, Creak, Minelli, Screwed" skewers the Cell Block Tango in writing and delivery; Sweeney's doorbell and an aside that “merrily we roll along" feature in Sondheim’s affectionate parody; Lord Lloyd Webber – or should it be Puccini? - will need a strong sense of humour or a stiff drink to get through the merciless repetition of "You’ve heard this song before".

MD Simon David is accomplished as ever on piano with what must be a fiendish score to play, and gives us a glimpse of his other talents at the end of the show.

On a simple yet effective set with two levels by Stewart J Charlesworth, Robert McWhir directs the team with pace and charm. The challenge is to catch every word, note and expression as there is so much to savour in this show. He has found an excellent cast who sing to a very high standard. Concentrating on the five composers, each section is just long enough to delight without becoming stale. If you don’t know musicals, get back to gay school. If you do, you’re in for an evening of totally adulterated indulgence.

Derek Benfield


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