Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.
This side-splitting satire romps through 70 years of musical theatre history taking affectionate pokes at various masters of the genre. The basic plot: June (Elizabeth Holmes) can’t pay her rent and is threatened by her evil landlord Jitter (Michael Gamache). She turns for advice to Abby (Roseanne DellAversano). But will the handsome leading man Willy/Billy (Mark Dixon) save the day?
The concept is summed up on the front page of the program: Five musicals, one plot. The variations are a Rogers & Hammerstein version set in Kansas in August — complete with a dream ballet; a Sondheim version featuring the landlord as a tortured artist who slashes the throats of tenants who fail to appreciate his genius; a splashy star vehicle a la Jerry Herman; an Andrew Lloyd Weber rock-musical featuring themes “borrowed” from Puccini; and a Kander & Ebb speakeasy set in Chicago.
The jokes are clever and continuous. The Rogers & Hammerstein segment opens Act I with a strapping cowhand singing “Oh, what beautiful corn!” and declaring “I’m in love with a wonderful hoe.” The Sondheim segment follows, taking aim at songs like Green Finch and Linnet Bird, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, and No One is Alone, punning several song titles as well. In Dear Abby — the Jerry Herman parody — an overly optimistic protagonist descends a staircase while her co-stars offer send-ups of Hello, Dolly!, If He Walked Into My Life and It’s Today.
Act II opens with the Andrew Lloyd Weber takeoff, Aspects of Junita, which allows the cast to caricature some of the stars of his works. Finally there’s the Kander & Ebb parody, where the host encourages patrons to “Drink up, ‘cause life’s a cabernet.” The actors slink and strut in Bob Fosse-style singing takeoffs like Cell Block Tango, Liza with a Z and My Coloring Book.
The staging is efficient and the performances spot on. Holmes is a versatile singer who can seamlessly transition from Broadway belter to operatic soprano. DellAversano’s Abby delivers just the right amount of world-weary cynicism and a lusty singing style. Mark Dixon is as charming a leading man as any ingénue could want. Michael Gamache’s comedic talents fit nicely into the role of the bumbling — and sometimes demented — landlord.
Rockwell and Bogart are skillful writers and if you get the jokes, the show is funny. Problem is some of the puns are so “inside,” that they can go over the heads of even the most ardent devotee of musical theatre. And the constant cleverness does weary after a while. Still a great evening of family entertainment. The show runs through October 19 at The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios.