I grew up watching the glorious musicals of my mother’s choosing – Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, The King and I, Mame, Hello Dolly, Showboat, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Gypsy, etc. She watched them over and over and over to the point that they’ve fused together in my mind in sort of psychedelic haze, a frosted frothy version of true love and the American dream (even if its set in Austria.)
That’s probably why when I saw Cats, I was appalled. What the hell is this? A cat going to a space ship while everyone admires the costumes is pretty much what I’ve come up with. And that stopped me from further musicals with the exception of “Into the Woods” – otherwise, nope. I’ve never seen the modern and post-modern classics.
The sole exception is “West Side Story” because … Rita Moreno. The rape scene haunted me and I loved Anita’s ‘fuck you’ response.
Still, I found the production and sentiment of The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) very funny and very familiar. It is currently in production at Off The Wall Theater in Carnegie
The show is a send-up and homage to the musical genre. It is divided into five acts, each focusing on one style/composer with the recurring theme of the ingenue being unable to pay the rent and her usual comrades – the hero, the villain, the character actor and the leading lady.
The show is very funny, even if you just have a passing acquaintance with musicals – you don’t have to “get” the references to appreciate the point. They sing, they dance, they emote and they do it all with a professional intensity that reminds you that local theater companies can bring the big numbers to regional theater. I was very impressed. And I laughed. Often.
The cast features seven – six actors and one very talented pianist who is the real star of the show. The choreography was dizzying and well executed, the over-the-top enthusiasm was just enough to keep me in my seat and the chemistry was fun. The music – oh, the music – was the hook that brought up so many memories. A chord here and there and I was lost in a dizzying fusion of past and present.
The most glaring lack of self-awareness in the show is the lack of racial diversity in almost every musical ever or the cringeworthy stereotypes. But that’s the script which is one thing. Perhaps casting a person of color in any of the roles would significantly enhance the wink and nod satirical element.
My favorite moments were the tribute to “Climb Every Mountain” from the Sound of Music, the tribute to Mame and the LOL moment around Cats.
And perhaps best of all – now I want to revisit some of the musicals I’ve ignored. They reignited my interest in musicals. Not Cats (never again), but I’m ready to tackle Jesus Christ, Superstar. And maybe something else.
That’s the best homage of all.
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) plays at Off The Wall Theater in Carnegie through May 21. Tickets start at $25.
Great news – if you want to avoid traffic snarls because of bridge closures, I highly recommend you jump over to the West End and take Noblestown Road into Carnegie. From the Northside, set your Google directions to avoid highways and it will get you there in about 18 minutes.
Also, Carnegie has some great restaurants. We frequently go to Papa J’s, but there’s a nice sushi place and an Irish pub, too. If you finish dinner early, check out The Flying Squirrel retro gift shop which has ice cream and every toy you ever remember having. They are open until 9 PM so its perfect if you have a little time to kill. And Off The Wall has free parking. You can get a stroll in with your dinner and show.
Last word – Off The Wall has a nice new app available for both iPhone and Android. It has lots of good details about the performances, but also some special updates and discounts for app users only. Last night, we received a free beverage as well as a glimpse into upcoming shows.