I can imagine how the script for “The Musical of Musicals, The Musical” came to jump from the heads of its writers to the page and then to the stage. I imagine Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell sitting on some Ikea couch with several bottles of three-buck Chuck and some Papa Murphy’s pizza. They talk about their lives and loves in the world of theater and compare their favorite shows. A few dry corks and heavily greased napkins later, they set out to spoof it all. They jot down their thoughts in a spiral bound notebook with a Bic pen that has a feather taped to the back to make it some sort of poor-man’s quill.
I could be totally wrong about the birth of this show, but my version would explain a lot.
It just screams “theater geek,” with all of it Broadway references and homages, albeit irreverent, to the Great White Way. Theatergoers might want to bring a scorecard to play a sort of “Where’s Waldo?” with all the references. Such a game might actually be more entertaining than the play itself. But here it is. Tacoma Musical Playhouse is staging “The Musical of Musicals, The Musical,” and while the show is well acted, well directed, well lighted and well sung, it just did not get me to where I wanted to go.
The musical parody follows a simple formula. A damsel in distress cannot pay her rent. A goof of sorts plays the hero and the evil landlord demands his payment either in cash or flesh. The story is told five times, one after the other with each retelling taking on the style of a different musical theater icon.
The five-scene collection of mini plays takes on the musical stylings of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Kander and Ebb and ends with Andrew Lloyd Webber. For those theater goers not familiar with those names, the composers created all the gold standards of Broadway’s past, including “South Pacific,” “Mame,” “Evita” and “Chicago.”
The story plays out with all the actors could bring to the script. And they brought a lot. As always, Elise Campello brought her quirky awesomeness to her role, as did the ever-jovial Andrew Fry as the stage manager of sorts. The power puncher of the show was Diane Bozzo, who tapped into her inner diva for a great nod to “Hello Dolly” as well as her anchor and supporting bits throughout the show.
Not an actor on the playbill failed to deliver. The show, however, just did not wow when I wanted a wow. I checked my watch twice in the two-hour show, largely because the music was less than memorable and more than a little kitschy.
A little parody goes a long way, and two hours of it went far longer than I wanted to spend. And there really was nothing the actors could do to change that. Judging from the snorts and belly rolls from others in the row for the packed matinee showing, others clearly enjoyed themselves. Either that or three women had seizures during the show, because they were full-body laughing at the jokes that just gain my smirk.
I could be a theater snob. It has been part of my job to see stage productions for nearly 20 years, after all. There are few shows I have not seen less than three or four times, so I was well versed on the musical gags and winks peppered throughout the show. It was not a matter of missing the jokes. I got them. They just were not “laughing” funny. They were simply “grin worthy” and deserving of a charity chuckle.
“The Musical of Musicals, The Musical” plays at Tacoma Musical Playhouse through Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays with special Saturday matinees on Feb. 2 and 9.
Tacoma Musical Playhouse is located at 7116 6th Ave. Ticket prices are $29 for adults; $27 for seniors, students and military; and a $20 Student Rush price is available for all opening weekend performances. For tickets or more information, visit www.tmp.org or call (253) 565-6867.