Five Way on the Showboat

'The Musical of Musicals' floats parodies on the river stage

Jul 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm

The Showboat Majestic is set to host five musicals for the price of one. Kind of.

In fact, The Musical of Musicals: The Musical is just one story, but it’s interpreted five ways — in the styles of various legendary musical theater creators. Given that musicals are in high demand on the Showboat, this show is perfectly suited for summer audiences and their expectations.

The Musical of Musicals kicks off with “Corn!” parodying Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, from the first notes of “Oh, What Beautiful Corn.” We meet the lovely June, who can’t pay the rent, is threatened by her evil landlord and then rescued by the handsome leading man. That’s a predictable and threadbare plot, to be sure. But the show’s creators, composer Eric Rockwell and lyricist Joanne Bogart, use it to poke fun at many of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s familiar conventions, including an inspirational number (“Follow Your Dream”) and a clichéd dream ballet.

Then the show rewinds to present four variations on the tale: “A Little Complex,” inspired by Stephen Sondheim’s darkly complicated Sweeney Todd; “Dear Abby,” in the show-stopping manner of Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly; “Aspects of Junita,” which replicates Andrew Lloyd Webber’s grandiose style in Phantom of the Opera; and “Speakeasy,” drawing on John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Cabaret and Chicago, complete with Bob Fosse-styled choreography.

When the Off-Broadway production of The Musical of Musicals was reviewed by The New York Times in 2003, writer Margo Jefferson observed, “The best parodists don’t just know their material; they love it.” That’s how this show feels: Each mini-musical captures the essence of its inspiration dead-on, while treating it in a way that totally appreciates the creativity of the source and what audiences love about it.

Joanne Bogart, writer of the clever lyrics (and who performed in a production of the show at the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2007), has said it’s “for people who love musical theater and people who hate musical theater.” That covers most of us. It’s a buoyant piece for the Showboat’s summer season.

THE MUSICAL OF MUSICALS: THE MUSICAL is presented on the Showboat Majestic July 8-26. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.