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'Musical' takes note of stage quirks

Is it true? Can you really get too much of a good thing?

O'Connell & Co.'s latest production, the recent award-winning off-Broadway hit show by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart, "The Musical of Musicals: The Musical," puts the old adage to the test with "yes" the probable answer. No matter. Give me even more, I say.

The idea is this. The old silent movie plot involving a young ingenue -- "I can't pay the rent!" -- is continued by the dastardly landlord -- "You must pay the rent!" -- and a sturdy hero's offer -- "I'll pay the rent!" Well, what if five American Songbook tunesmiths were to write a musical about that same basic story, the premise repeated by the likes of Rodgers & Hammerstein II, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, John Kander and Fred Ebb and Andrew Lloyd Webber? Composer Rockwell and lyricist Bogart wondered. "The Musical of Musicals: The Musical," a lovingly parodic, endlessly inventive but essentially one-joke revue, was born.

In truth, when the rent is late for the fifth time, the theme begins to wane, but getting to that point is great fun. "Corn," in the style of Rodgers & Hammerstein II, begins the night with nods to "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel" with a touch of "The Sound of Music," particularly a hilarious send-up of "Climb Every Mountain."

"A Little Complex," with overtones of Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" and spoofs of some of the dumber songs from "Company" follows; "Dear Abby," in the "Hello Dolly!" style of Jerry Herman, joins the agenda along with "Aspects of Juanita," which does more than poke fun at the ponderousness and Puccini-robbing Andrew Lloyd Webber -- not mean-spirited but certainly more pointed.

"Speakeasy," in the style of Kander & Ebb, is a wonderful, almost stand-alone closer. Michael Tosha is unerringly perfect all night as the twisted Christopher Isherwood MC. He and his cohorts -- the winsome, watchable, Bernadette Peters-like Jenn Stafford and Guy Tomasi and Pamela Rose Mangus, an invaluable pair of zanies -- romp and slink through references to "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and "Chicago," but remind with a wink that "Life is a cabernet, old chum." Roger Paolini directs with a wonderful sense of it all, and he gets help from a quintet of choreographers: Bobby Cooke, Terrie George, Jack Greenan, Carlos Jones and company impresario Mary Kate O'Connell. Paolini himself choreographs one segment. Theresa Quinn is musical director and accompanist.

Thursday's opening-night audience was genre-savvy, and they seemed to "get" the premise and the fast-moving material. Not being familiar with some of the shows could be a drawback, but don't let that keep you away from "The Musical of Musicals: The Musical." It's that good.

***

Theater Review

"The Musical of Musicals: The Musical"

Musical presented through May 20 by O'Connell & Company in Cabaret in the Square Theatre, 4476 Main St., Snyder.

For more information, call 839-3949 or visit www.oconnellandcompany.com.

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