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'The Musical of Musicals' scores big time in New Milford

By David Begelman, News-Times


Any show directed and choreographed by the immensely talented Brad Blake is bound to delight community theater audiences. His staging of the current musical at New Milford's TheaterWorks is no exception. It's a show of professional caliber, down to every aspect of its production.

Blake has directed other vehicles for this playhouse that bear the unmistakable signs of his deft hand. Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," presented at the same playhouse several years ago, was one memorable example.

His current show, "The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)" -- although a theatrical project that makes no bones about its tongue-in-cheek take on the American musical theater -- continues the director's tradition of superlative showmanship. It features music by Eric Rockwell, lyrics by Joanne Bogart and book by Rockwell and Bogart.

Standing ovations are sometimes a spurious barometer of quality. But on opening night of the show at New Milford TheatreWorks, they were unquestionably deserved.

Audiences need not arrange an exodus to New York City -- at a considerable expense, to boot -- to see the latest installment of "Forbidden Broadway," a series of shows that satirize Broadway musicals. The Rockwell and Bogart show is in the same delightful vein, and might even be considered to be a riff on them.

The show pokes good-natured fun at popular musicals created by some pretty impressive talent: Rogers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Weber and the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Based upon the simple-minded idea of a conniving landlord trying to bully a young woman in arrears for her rent, "Musical of Musicals" is the spin that those esteemed seven composers might put on this theme. The result is a hilarious outcome clothed in songs that bear resemblances to numbers in "Oklahoma!" "Carousel," "Sweeney Todd," "Hello Dolly!" "Mame." "Le Cage Aux Folles," "Evita," "Phantom of the Opera," "Sunset Boulevard" and "Cabaret."

And it's the contrast between the simple-minded theme and a fancied approach to it by those famous composers that makes this show so appealing. But the enjoyment doesn't stop there.

Blake's staging of the musical is itself a treat. He is its musical accompaniment, seated upstage center at a piano in plain sight of the audience. He assists performers in moving it and other props around the stage so they are positioned for getting the most out of a song. A stellar crew of backstage talent, including Scott Wyshynski, Glenn Couture, John Bolster, Sonnie Osborne and Tom Libonate, in turn assists him.

Four performers: Priscilla Squiers (who put in an equally accomplished portrayal as Charlotte in Blake's "A Little Night Music"), Jessica Smith, Jonathan Jacobson and Tom Denihan take on a variety of individual roles that distinguish each of them as the seasoned performers they are. They all deserve a resounding "bravo" for their accomplished roles in this impressive production. Same for Bradford Blake, who earns one with a capital "B."

If you miss this show, it's your loss.

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