The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) first opened in December 2003 at the New York-based York Theatre Company. The show was nominated for five 2004 Drama Desk Awards, including Best Musical, and the 2004 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, as well as the 2005 Drama League nomination for Best Musical. It joins the ranks of other US-UK transfers opening this year, including Wicked, Spamalot, Avenue Q and Movin’ Out - albeit on a far smaller scale.
In the comic satire of musical theatre genres, one story becomes five musicals. June, an ingénue who can't pay the rent, is threatened by her evil landlord. Will the handsome leading man come to her rescue? This basic plot is first musicalised the way Rodgers and Hammerstein might have envisioned it, taking place in Kansas in August, complete with a Dream Ballet.
It’s then re-created in the style of Stephen Sondheim, featuring the landlord as a tortured, artistic genius who slashes the throats of his tenants in revenge because they don't appreciate his art. When presented in the style of Jerry Herman, it becomes a splashy star vehicle, while the Andrew Lloyd Webber version is rock operatic, with borrowed themes from Puccini. The story is re-told one last time in the style of Kander and Ebb, set in a speakeasy in Chicago.
The UK cast of The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) includes Joanna Ampil (Hair, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon), Geoffrey Abbott (Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof and Scrooge on tour), Susannah Fellows (Beautiful and Damned, Mamma Mia) and Ian McLarnon (Sunday in the Park with George, Pacific Overtures).
The production is directed by Julian Woolford, artistic director of Sevenoaks Playhouse, and designed by Ben Stones, with choreography by Steven Harris and musical direction by Dean Austin. It’s presented by NML Productions, Melanie Herman, the York Theatre Company and Martian Entertainment, in association with Louis Bluver. British producer Neil Laidlaw most recently revived Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing, also at the Sound Theatre, where it returns for a second season this summer (See News, 2 Mar 2006).
- by Caroline Ansdell
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