- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It’s no good sitting alone in your room. So put on your Sunday clothes, and don’t cry for me, Argentina, because life is a cabaret, old chum.

That’s a sampling of the melodic mayhem in store for lovers of all things Broadway at “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” MetroStage’s encore production of Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart’s pun-filled lullaby to musical-theater titans. The razzle-dazzle and broad comedy of “Musical of Musicals,” first presented in 2007, have not dimmed one watt. And with the addition of Matthew A. Anderson to the original cast of Janine Gulisano-Sunday, Bobby Smith and Donna Migliaccio, the star power and unabashed joy have even increased.

Directed with high-energy cheekiness by Larry Kaye, “Musical of Musicals” lovingly parodies 50 years of Broadway conventions and song styles in less time than it takes to sit through “Les Miserables.” Mr. Rockwell and Miss Bogart borrow the basic story line from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” — wholesome cowpoke (Mr. Anderson) is a-courtin’ prairie ingenue June (Miss Gulisano-Sunday) but almost loses her to evil landlord Jidder (Mr. Smith) while Abby (Miss Migliaccio) stands by to dispense wise counsel and belt out big numbers — and present it a la Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander and Ebb.

Doug Lawler provides excellent piano accompaniment along with the occasional commentary. There also are droll stage directions — instructing audience members, for example, to applaud the chandelier and lighting changes.

Yet every skewering is delightfully on-target, starting with the maize-glutted tribute “Oh, What Beautiful Corn!” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s penchant for sentimental duets and storytelling songs is satirized in such lyrics as “A chipmunk is reading the Bible/he’s got to be carefully taught” and “What’s that in my tooth?/A kernel of truth.” The requisite dream ballet is given a “run of De Mille” treatment in an unhinged pas de deux by Mr. Anderson and Miss Gulisano-Sunday.

The Jerry Herman segment spoofs the composer’s penchant for ever-escalating showstoppers and easily digestible ditties with gung-ho lyrics. Meanwhile, Mr. Webber’s reputation for wall-to-wall music and ripping off Puccini is sent up in “Aspects of Junita,” which features the mysterious Phantom (Mr. Smith), who tears off his mask to reveal he’s a deadpan cat from T.S. Eliot.

We Washingtonians love our Kander and Ebb, and “Speakeasy” lampoons the Broadway legends’ love of gender-bending characters, scanty lingerie and hip-thrusting Bob Fosse choreography. Mr. Anderson goes above and beyond as the polysexual Villy. So does Miss Migliaccio as the basso-voiced chanteuse whose delivery of the world-weary torch song brought the evening’s biggest laughs.

You want subtlety? Go see a Michael John LaChiusa chamber musical. “The Musical of Musicals” is broader than Ethel Merman’s high C and infinitely more entertaining.

★★★★

WHAT: “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” music by Eric Rockwell, lyrics by Joanne Bogart, book by Mr. Rockwell and Miss Bogart

WHERE: MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Oct. 18.

TICKETS: $45 to $50

PHONE: 703/548-9044

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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