The Musical of Musicals

Date 10th June 2021
Society Pied Pipers Musical Theatre Club
Venue ADC Theatre, Cambrige
Director Laura Saunders
Musical Director Andrew Taylor
Choreographer Laura Saunders

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Author: Julie Petrucci

A musical about musicals! In this humorous satire of musical theatre, one story becomes five delightful musicals, each written in the distinctive style of a different master of the form, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman,  Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander and Ebb

The storyline is effectively the same basic plot five times over, but presented in the style of different composers, June is an ingenue who can’t pay the rent and is threatened by her evil landlord, the handsome leading man comes to the rescue and she also has a friend who she turns to for support and advice. The variations are: “Corn” a Rodgers and Hammerstein version, set in Kansas in August, complete with a dream ballet; “A Little Complex” a Sondheim version, featuring the landlord of “The Woods” as a tortured artistic genius who slashes the throats of his tenants in revenge for not appreciating his work;  “Dear Abby” giving ‘star’ treatment to Jerry Herman’s Hello Dolly, Mame and Cage aux Folles: “Aspects of a Junita” an Andrew Lloyd Webber version mixing up Evita, Sunset Boulevard, Phantom and other ALW musicals; and a Kander and Ebb version, set in a speakeasy in Chicago.

Eric Rockwell’s music and Joanne Bogart’s lyrics (and the book by the both of them) is very clever but with forty or so musical numbers in various styles to get through, as well as sections of spoken dialogue, in around an hour and a half, the cast of four are supported in this production by Musical Director Andrew Taylor, without further accompaniment. It’s an impressive achievement given the sheer variety of music in this parody show, with lampooning of the mellow ‘If I Loved You’ from Carousel and the frenetically wordy ‘Getting Married Today’ from Company, and every kind of pace and style in between.   All the music and lyrics are original, only the styles are recognisable.

Laura Saunders’ clear direction ensured her four players kept us believing in the nonsense at the same time that we are laughing at it.  Laura uses two separate casts to meet with current restrictions.  I saw the Wednesday performance and there are certainly no weak links in this strong and talented cast. 

Caroline Watson as Abby gave a powerful rendering in ‘Follow Your Dream’, a cross between ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ from The Sound of Music and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Carousel

Maxim Thompson’s Jitter goes from a cross between Sweeney Todd, George from Sunday in the Park with George to the title character in The Phantom of the Opera.

Abigail Mann gave a bravura performance as June as she channels her inner Eva Perón. Chip Colquhoun’s  Billy is as comfortable as a cowboy as he is as Evita’s Che. 

The lyrics of this show are extremely clever and it is important we as an audience can hear what is being sung.  Without exception I can honestly say we heard every word which in itself is something to be very grateful for but it is also impressive as the singers were all wearing perspex face coverings.  

Given this is such a busy show the stage was kept sparse with just a low level block, chairs when needed and four cubes labelled Hero, Matron, Ingenue and Villain which all cleverly contained the items of costumes which needed to be added. The sound was finely balanced and lighting and follow spot work was well controlled.  Costumes were mainly black with necessary character change additions.  

This was my first night sitting in a live theatre for eighteen months and despite having to wear a face covering was nothing to what Laura Saunders and her two casts have had to cope with during the run up to their show week.  Various lockdowns and pandemic restrictions meant limited numbers at rehearsals (many of which were held outside) and as mentioned two casts were used.  Judging by the relentless energy required from the actors whilst wearing face coverings themselves no doubt both casts are quite happy to only do three performances each!

Congratulations to Pied Pipers’ cast, crew and production team for once again giving us the opportunity to enjoy live theatre and for introducing me to this clever but nutty musical.