“The Musical of Musicals” – Theater Works

This review aired on KBAQ March 25, 2013


Theater Works, Peoria Center for Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

Peoria’s Theater Works crafts a wry and funny insider look at the musical theater’s foibles and hysterical absurdities in “The Musical of Musicals.”  The fast-paced show is filled with ribald laughter and it is performed by a farcical four-person ensemble and accompanied by a clever piano player and narrator who adds his own bits of innuendo and malarkey.  It helps to know every musical theater nuance but I attended with two people who posses just average musical theater knowledge and they both enjoyed it.

The ensemble couldn’t be better and each performer adds amusing comic bits to the clever show that is presented as five mini-musicals, each in the style of the musical theater creator being lambasted – Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Kander and Ebb, and Jerry Herman.  Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart developed the witty book and the pair created the songs and lyrics that capture each team’s style as the same silly story gets told as each team would handle it.

“Corn,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein segment, slams at the big second act ballads, the story ballets included in each of the team’s musicals, the heavy story emphasis on romance, and roasts the simple-minded solutions that end each show.

In “A Little Complex,” Stephen Sondheim’s intellectual take on his stories gets condemned as the simple story gets convoluted and edgy just like Sondheim’s shows.  Jerry Herman’s overly simplistic take on his frail plots and the importance of each repetitious song gets slammed in “Dear Abby.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s heavy focus on character and his operatic song style get slashed and diced in “Aspects of Junita.”  In “Speakeasy,” Kander and Ebb’s sociological dissection of their stories gets razed.

There isn’t a favorite among the segments because each mini-musical bashes as it exposes each composers’ many faux pas’.  Each player gets their own bits of hilarious nonsense.  Sally Jo Bannow uses her impeccable comic timing and subtle innuendo to add additional sparkle to her comic moments.  Young Camille Gribbons seems like a seasoned musical theater veteran as she sparres hysterically.  As the stuffy romantic leading man, Brian Sweis places his foot firmly in his mouth as he mocks musical theater’s bizarre handling of love.  Production and Music Director Steve Hilderbrand shows with each subtle gesture and each wickedly funny line reading how much he knows and loves musical theater.

You will have a delightfully fun and wacky time at Theater Works “The Musical of Musicals.”  It continues through April 7.  For tickets, call the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts box office at 623-815-7930 or order tickets online at www.theaterworks.org.

Grade: B