Photo by Ed KriegerThere are two kinds of people: those who pop boners over musicals, and the rest of us. If you, or someone you love, is in danger of being seduced by the former camp, then stay away from the latest summer cash cow . . . er, theater production at the Laguna Playhouse: TheMusicalofMusicals—TheMusical!
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This cleverly penned, wittily performed Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart musical is a playful parody that satirizes the composing styles articulated by the main architects of American musicals. There's the star-spangled, corn-fed hokum of Rodgers and Hammerstein; the urban anxiety at the heart of Stephen Sondheim's darker forays; the glitzy, star-vehicle optimism of Jerry Herman (Hello Dolly, Mame); the soft-porn decadence of Chicagoand Cabaretwriters Kander and Ebb; and, of course, the visual hyberbole of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who isn't American but should be, since his overblown, bombastic bullshit is a perfect fit for a country that gave the rest of the civilized world super-size fast-food portions and the state of Texas.
The story, as in most musicals, really isn't important, revolving around a young, haplessly cash-strapped woman threatened by her wicked landlord and befriended by a handsome young do-gooder. Five variations on this standard melodramatic theme, all delivered in the style of the aforementioned talents, follow.
It's fun enough for what it is, and everybody involved is revoltingly talented, but it's a bit too cutesy and musical-theater-insider at times, lacking the go-for-the-jugular approach that's made ForbiddenBroadwaysuch a cheesy, guilty pleasure for so long. (Webber gets the biggest razzes of the night, but this is a guy who has done as much damage to legitimate theater as anyone this side of the NEA; instead of a mere tongue-lashing he deserves crucifixion.) But the creators of this show aren't interested in precise surgery with a scalpel; it's all broad strokes and big laughs, and they elicit plenty. This is the kind of show devoted entirely to the notion of just having a good time. That might drive a nattering nabob of negativity to drink, but it's just fine for the thousands who will pack the confines of the playhouse this summer to watch it.
THE MUSICAL OF MUSICALS—THE MUSICAL! AT LAGUNA PLAYHOUSE, 606 LAGUNA CANYON RD., LAGUNA BEACH, (949) 497-ARTS. TUES.-FRI., 7:30 P.M.; SAT., 2 & 7:30 P.M.; SUN., 2 P.M. THROUGH SEPT. 4. $20-$59.