|Musical of Musicals Is Extraordinary Entertainment
By: George Linkletter
A five-for-the-price-of-one romp through some of the most famous genres on Broadway
Some community theater productions are perfectly named and perfectly executed. This is one of them!
The Musical of Musicals (The Musica!l) now on stage at Theatreworks New Milford is strikingly professional and hilariously entertaining. And given the astronomical prices of musicals on Broadway nowadays, it is also an incredible value for fans of the genre.
The stage play takes a simple premise – the inability of a poor tenant to pay her monthly rent to her evil landlord – and imagines how some of the giants of Broadway would interpret and present the dilemma. The result is a spoof of the styles of famously entertaining shows such as Oklahoma!, Sweeney Todd, Hello Dolly!, Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret and Chicago that is fast-paced and creative. Quite simply, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this collection of snippets.
Just as remarkable is the fact that the entire stage production involves just four area actors, who play the key roles of the five genres in sequence, and a single pianist. All excel in this production, making the difficult look easy, and clearly enjoy their time on stage and their interactions with each other. They are all having fun and the audience can see that.
If quality of voice is a defining aspect of a successful Broadway musical, then the honor in this production goes to Jessica Smith (of Danbury), who portrays the five iterations of June, the young woman who is unable to pay her rent. Ms. Smith is a savvy veteran with 12 years of experience as a professional singer, voice and acting teacher, and musical and dramatic director. It shows. She has a powerful voice, more than effectively masters the range of songs in the production – and possesses an innate sense of comic timing, too.
On the male side, the same distinction goes to Jonathan Jacobson (of Litchfield), another accomplished actor with stage performances in Waterbury, Torrington, Stamford, Thomaston, Simsbury, Westport and Goshen to his credit. Mr. Jacobson is confident and easily handles the role of the evil landlord trying to collect his rent in the five vignettes. His best villain may be as Sir Phantom Jitter, a character which allows him to draw upon his extensive talents.
Pricilla Squiers (also from Danbury) is the matronly Mother Abby character and portrays the nuances of her five roles superbly. She is effectively two-dimensional in the opening 'Corn!' sequence, and then blossoms in the later roles where she is able to exhibit a broader range of her remarkable talents. Ms. Squiers is well known to audiences at Theatreworks and is a veteran performer on many stages in the area.
Tom Denihan (of Woodbury) brings a high level of energy to the five aspects of the heroic Big Willy character, the kindly friend or neighbor who comes to the rescue and offers to pay the rent on behalf of June. His is a strong and beefy character, and his confidence and determination are palpable – except when he plays a dancing girl in 'Speakeasy.' There he is just plain hilarious.
Providing the musical accompaniment via piano throughout – as well as the humorous transitions between and during the genres – is Bradford Blake, who is also director/designer/choreographer and musical director for the effort. Mr. Blake is something of a legend in local community theater, having served as Founding Director of Musicals at Richter in Danbury as well as Artistic Director there for seven years – along with many, many other theatrical, directorial, acting and screenwriting activities. If Mr. Blake is involved in a musical production, you are pretty much assured it is going to be first-rate.
Also of note in this production is the superb lighting. The staging, costumes and props are kept minimal in this production, which helps focus attention on the four actors. Lighting is therefore critical, to set the various moods and help 'enlarge' the stage and create separation for the actors. The work of lighting designers Richard Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski is outstanding.
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