Adelaide Fringe 2011
One story, five mini-musicals, a parody of five influential musical theatre creators. DeLaine and Finn’s production of The Musical of Musicals is to musicals what corn is to cornflakes: the kernel of nutrition in a flaky bowl of sweetness.
There was a bright golden haze over the crowd at La Boheme last night as Ben Finn and his theatrical accomplices commandeered the stage in this musical satire of musicals. With their overuse of the famous “Fosse jazz hands”, these talented four over-sang and over-acted their way through five mini-musicals parodying five influential creators of musical theatre , accompanied by the flirtatious fingers of Angela Welsh on piano.. And with well-researched music and lyrics by Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell, they really couldn’t step out of time.
Rogers and Hammerstein were first up for dissection as the hero – Mark DeLaine (Big Willy/Billy) proclaimed his lack of love for the ingénue Fiona DeLaine (June/Jeune), who was too pre-occupied with plucking nose hairs to bother with the big guy. This was Oklahoma with a dash of bitters. Sondheim was next on the chopping board as Finn (Jidder/Jitter), the villain of the piece, morphed from demon artist – think Sweeney Todd – into landlord, almost getting away with murder, while Fiona DeLaine took “birdbrain” to a new level with her brilliant solo: Birds in the Head.
Michaela Lucas (Mother Abby/Abby) came into her own when Jerry Herman’s Hello Dolly and Mame were given their airing. Sliding effortlessly from piano top to centre stage, Lucas belted out her song lyrics: “can’t sing or dance but she’s the star of the show” with indomitable star quality.
And it just kept getting better, with Act Two covering the more contemporary musical theatre creators Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar), and my personal favourites Kander and Webb (Cabaret, Chicago, Woman of the Year). The highlights were Fiona DeLaine’s aptly over-dramatised rendition of “I’ve heard that Song Before” and “Juney with a J”; Finn in the Joel Gray role from Cabaret playing with pig Latin; and the full cast doing a bizarre mix of the Cell Block Tango from Chicago but using chairs a la Cabaret. Fiona DeLaine’s choreography was exceptional. And of course the Finale, “Done”, a take of “One” from director Michael Bennet’s A Chorus Line, was suitably “overdone” – complete with gold bowler hats and a kick line.
A word of warning to Fringe goers that aren’t familiar with musicals: most of the references hinge on familiarity with a show’s content, so do some research before you go. If you are familiar with musical theatre definitely see this show, it’s an inspired piece of writing delivered superbly by all four cast members.