Smart showtune satire from Reston Community Players teens

Smart showtune satire from Reston Community Players teens

Pop quiz: If you established out to educate younger musical theater artists, whose canon would

Pop quiz: If you established out to educate younger musical theater artists, whose canon would you sample?
A) Rodgers and Hammerstein
B) Stephen Sondheim
C) Jerry Herman
D) Andrew Lloyd Webber
E) Kander and Ebb
F) All of the above

With The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!), the remedy is overwhelmingly F. But the grade for Reston Neighborhood Players’ apprentices as they take a look at the waters of showmanship through their boisterous interpretation? A++.

This satirical operate — the brainchild of Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart that originated off-Broadway in 2003 with the tagline “Sometimes, 1 musical is not enough” — packs 5 periods the theatrical punch, and pulls no punches, in mocking the Excellent White Way’s finest collaborations. At its main is quite possibly the oldest little bit of melodrama acknowledged to humankind: the vaudevillian “I can not fork out the hire!” skit, so timely in these moments of mass evictions. A damsel in distress bemoans her unhappy predicament (“I simply cannot shell out the hire!”), shrinks from a villainous landlord (“You need to pay out the rent!”), and retains out for rescue by a Dudley Do-Proper style (“I’ll spend the hire!”).

The acquainted hook will get recycled 5 periods in this article, reimagined in the types of R&H, Sondheim, Jerry Herman, ALW, and Kander & Ebb — ever dancing on the edge of musical and lyrical plagiarism. The Musical of Musicals is customarily performed with four actors and a piano, but the genius of this generation is in marrying such hilarious, spinoff material to an ensemble of 12 gifted, gung-ho teenagers. Fulfill the inaugural course of RCP’s Apprentice Application, helmed by producer Kate Keifer and director-choreographer Jolene Vettese.

It is a crash program in musicals, extremely educational for both of those learners and viewers. But irrespective of whether you are a theater newbie or theater nerd, you are going to will need no footnotes to get these gags. Mild bulbs will flicker in your brains all night in tune/time with the razzle-dazzle onstage.

The cast of ‘The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!).’ Photograph by Heather Regan Images.

Your syllabus starts with “Corn,” established in Kansas but largely an ode to Oklahoma! — Rodgers and Hammerstein’s pioneering American musical — comprehensive with aspiration ballet. Cassidy Loria establishes a daring, attractive tone as Major Willy, our hero, singing her sonnet to corn. In keeping with an previous-type musical, the backdrop is painted, rows of cornstalks are planted, and a farmhouse spins from exterior to interior sights. (And wow! The sets, made by Andrew JM Regiec, get extra delicious and ground breaking with each individual scene.)

In succession, we meet the darlin’ damsel June (Jane Keifer) leering landlord Jidder (Eli Smigielski), who stalks June by the stalks and sage Mother Abby, her riff on The Audio of Songs’s “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” superiorly sung by Kira Woldow (in a nun’s routine). All of R&H’s operates get mashed up in it, and then the gamers get sprinkled into other scenes.

For occasion, Kira reappears as swanky confirmed-bachelor Billy (“Billy-Newborn, Billy-Bub Silly-Willy Wooly-Bully,” and so on.) in “A Minor Complex” — the department of the story entangled in dim, weighty strains of Sondheim. Jane also sparkles as the damsel Junie Faye in “Dear Abby,” the bombastic Jerry Herman star car. Eli transforms into Phantom Jitter, the villain in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sung-by “Aspects of Junita” sequence he morphs again when his Phantom mask is eliminated (er, animorphs?).

You get the gist. Gender-fluid actors mixing fluidly as potential customers and ensemble in a expertise showcase. A take note about framework, although, which these kids served illuminate: The “Abby” character — a clever voice not usually existing in the “I simply cannot pay the rent” plot — provides the present-halting tune in every iteration, the so-called 11 o’clock selection, the musical thread stitching points jointly. As a result, Kira instructions in “Corn.” Kalyani Srivastava slays as the barstool hedonist Abby in “A Very little Complicated.” Glittery Anoushka Sharma descends yet again and again from the staircase as Auntie Abby. (Hi, Abby! Hi there, costume transform!) Elizabeth Cha, pretending to be in excess of the hill, takes factors about the top as Abigail Von Schtarr in “Aspects of Junita.” And Mayumi Gant vamps gloriously as a jaded Fraulein Abby in “Speakeasy,” the show’s nod to Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret). “Speakeasy” is also cleverly translated into German on the set as Flüsterkneipe, the identify of the cabaret where Jahlil Greene embodies emcee Jütter with slinky model.

Scene from ‘The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!).’ Image by Heather Regan Photography.

So quite a few stars, so numerous jokes, so small time. Madelyn Regan steps up in Act II as celebrity Junita — the staircase transforms into a balcony and we at when absorb Lloyd Webber’s hero-worship obsession by way of Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard), even Christine (sing for me!) from The Phantom of the Opera.

Dripping with wit, Myiah Miller anchors the Sondheim session as tortured artist/sadist Jitter, who’s section Sweeney Todd and section Seurat (from Sunday in the Park With George). Keyla Niederstrasser flits about as Jeune, illustrating for this critic that probably Sondheim can be underhandedly sexist, portray his female people as ditzy, a thesis really worth checking out. Brava, Keyla.

(Woman power and woman empowerment operate by way of this generation, really. Pay back exclusive awareness to the close of “Corn,” immediately after a hysterical June declares: “Why, in some cases you can get strike, hit real challenging, and it feels like a kiss!” I won’t give it absent, but props there and in other places to properties designer Mary Jo Ford.)

As dazzling as all these “Broadway babies” are, Vettese justifies a standing O for corralling and coaching them. By means of her midwifery, they appear to be born to the phase, extra snug and polished than your common grownup local community theater player, and way funnier than the forged recording. Vettese elevates the silliness to a jaw-dropping amount of sophistication, every single line craftily choreographed. And the performers throw by themselves into each individual move with unbridled glee — grapevine skiddoos, Fosse-esque articulations, total-blown trenches. The action commences and ends with a bouncy refrain line — the finale unapologetically lifted from A Chorus Line. (As a substitute of “One,” it’s “Done” — around and done — “It’s in excess of completed for theatre cognoscenti!”)

Because of to COVID, all the actors are masked, but with peekaboo see-through plastic in excess of their mouths, enabling a tad far more expression while blurring their identities. Their lines, miraculously, are not blurred, however, as in most cases their diction shines by (many thanks, audio crew, such as apprentice seem assistant Daniel Prothe). The mask accessory oddly tends to make the troupe sense more uniform, each character interchangeable, giving extra electric power to the sensible costume structure by Lori Crockett and apprentice assistant Grace Drost. Everyone’s a Phantom! The basic ensemble is leotard black, with appears to be that get dressed up as they go. For the Rodgers and Hammerstein part, chorus members don “Many a New Day” pantaloon skirts and matching straw hats. In the course of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mock-opera set, they activity devotional tunics with sashes of quite a few shades.

Scene from ‘The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!).’ Photograph by Heather Regan Images.

From behind the piano, audio director Lucia LaNave transposes character, befitting each individual musical perspective. (She’s the pianist for seven of the 10 performances. Tammy Lydon accompanies the Oct 22–24 displays.) A further apprentice, Elliot Baird, serves as assistant audio director. The notes and harmonies they’ve teased from just about every teenager are outstanding, and the gusto with which they’re sung additional than would make up for any lack of advancement. Once more, an endorsement for this good preference of material for young thespians. Satire is a license for hazard-using, and just about every gamble right here yields a large payoff.

Applause, applause for specialized co-administrators Sara Birkhead and Dan Widerski, phase manager Kaiti Parish, and the whole output crew. Lighting, developed by Franklin Coleman, is a examine in contrasts, specifically when shifting from the shiny daylight of a Rodgers and Hammerstein picnic to the severe menace of Sondheim’s Woods. Sound designer Richard Bird populates the barnyard, plumbs eerie depths, and places on the ritz with seamless ability. Maximizing the workforce are apprentices Morgan Weis (onstage technician) and LJ Murphy (assistant set dresser). Techies get their instant in the highlight — perfectly, the darkish — throughout an interlude in advance of the Kander and Ebb spoof. Mainly because what musical theater education and learning would be finish without the need of a nod to the “backstage musical”?

There is anything so deliciously meta about this knowledge, it begs for repeat viewings. I know we at DC Metro Theater Arts have claimed it countless periods just before, that right after a long pandemic intermission, theater is back again. Actually, until eventually now, I did not believe that it. Theater is not only again — it has a future. Here’s your possibility to catch tomorrow’s brightest stars although catching up on a compendium of musicals you have undoubtedly, sorely, missed. A danger truly worth getting.

Operating time: 90 minutes as well as a 10-moment intermission.

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) plays at Reston Group Center’s CenterStage, 2310 Colts Neck Street in Reston, VA, through November 6, 2021. Curtain time is 8 pm except for Oct 24, 30, and 31 matinees, with a 2 pm curtain. For tickets ($20 grown ups, $15 seniors/learners), get in touch with the box place of work at (703) 476-4500 x3 or at restonplayers.org. CenterStage is obtainable and presents listening units for the listening to impaired. RCP’s COVID-19 insurance policies and protocols are listed here.

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Reston Group Gamers kick off apprentice method with musical sendup