'The Musical of Musicals' delivers the best part of seeing a musical

The Musical of Musicals: The Musical  Who Rarely Done Productions Where 441 E. Washington St., Syracuse When Through Nov. 3 Tickets $20 Review by Josh Austin

If it’s not clear from the title, The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!), is indeed, a musical. And if the title does not make it painstakingly evident, one of the first lines sung to the audience: “We’re singing, that’s because it’s a musical.”

Musicals is a five-act romp that is sure to make any theater nerd think that they’ve died and gone to a sold-out, musical heaven.

Rarely Done Productions kicks off this season with the show it did five years ago. It’s a smart and sassy little ditty that parodies and pays homage to five of the most well known Broadway heavyweights: Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Kander and Ebb, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Jerry Herman. It’s a show where having some musical inclination is extremely helpful. But if not, it’s easy to make out some recognizable themes.

For instance, the first mini-musical, “Corn,” parodies R&H’s Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, Carousel and more. It’s a cheesy act where the guys are burley men, and the women are dainty gals and finding love in a cornfield is the norm.

Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart’s show oozes kitsch. Still, jokes like, “The bearded lady, she almost got me to ‘murry’ her. That was close shave,” land with a hysterical “wah, wah, wah.” That’s the best part of being a theater aficionado when seeing this: it’s not meant to be taken seriously.

The tiny cast of four carries on four archetypes throughout each act. There’s the ever-villainous Jitter (Peter Irwin), the daft man’s man, hopeful hero Billy (Jimmy Curtin)—who looks great in drag—the blonde ingénue June (Aubry Panek) and the matron, larger-than-life Abby (Jodie Baum).

The cast, aside from Curtin, is the original crew from the show five years ago. All four of them have clout in the Syracuse theater realm—and it’s obviously well deserved. In fact, the program points out, “Really good actors like the ones listed never appear in the chorus unless it turns out that, well, they have to. And then they do so only grudgingly.”

The notable standouts were the gals. Panek delivered exceptional soprano and Baum belted out boisterous numbers.

Director Dan Tursi had his work cut out for him, even though this show is silly and the grandiose falls in the slapstick parody. A true theatre lover would still expect to see likeness in styles. Tursi delivered. The Sondheim and Webber acts, respectively titled “A Little Complex” and “Aspects of Junita,” need to showcase the best and worst of the two composers.

The two funnier acts of the show mimic the difficult, delirious melodies of the musical geniuses. Sondheim inspired “complex” starts with the morose utterings of “ambiguity and angst.” Quickly, the audience is taken through Into The Woods, Sweeney Todd and Company, among others. The act displays the best of Sondheim: harsh, heart-breaking lyrics veiled in giddy melodies.

“Aspects of Junita” showcases Webber’s best. Phantom, Cats, Joseph and others make up this act. The musical gives a funny glimpse of what it’s like to watch a Webber production. In fact, the musical pretty much tells the audience what it’s like to see a grandiose styling’s of the composer, as the cast sings, “everything I do is a big production.”

The sold-out house reveled in the show. Even a small snag such as a blonde wig sticking to the chandelier was applauded with absolute hilarity—it fit perfectly into the production.

This kind of show is something to be marveled at. Rarely Done has put on a show that grabs the best of community acting and voices and crams them into a less than professional comedy.

Musicals captures the best part of going to see a musical. It seizes the best parts of live theater and lets the imagination do the rest.