‘The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)’ at Damascus Theatre Company

Do you love classic Broadway theatre? Do you love the work of legendary Broadway composers? Do you love clever satire, glittering costumes, and talented performers? If so, you will absolutely love The Damascus Theatre Company’s production of The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!). With music by Eric Rockwell, lyrics by Joanne Bogart, and book by Rockwell and Bogart, this show has everything that theatre-lovers love!

As the name suggests, this musical is a compendium of five miniature musicals, each one evoking and satirizing the style of a particular composer or composer/lyricist team, including Rodgers and Hammerstein (“Corn”), Stephen Sondheim (“A Little Complex”), Jerry Herman (“Dear Abby”), Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Aspects of Junita”), and Kander and Ebb (“Speakeasy”). It is at once a spoof of those musicals and a tribute to them. Each original mini-musical includes a plethora of rapid-fire references to the most famous shows by those Broadway luminaries and challenges audience members to recognize them. The running theme throughout all five acts is the classic melodrama plot, “I can’t pay the rent!” but this theme is treated very differently in each version.

"Corn": L TO R: Micky Goldstein, Bill Brown, Ellie Borzilleri, and Cheryl J. Campo. Phot by Elli Swink.
“Corn”: L To R: Micky Goldstein, Bill Brown, Ellie Borzilleri, and Cheryl J. Campo. Photo by Elli Swink.

For example, the first act (“Corn) is done in the style of Rodgers and Hammerstein and begins with the song, “Oh! What Beautiful Corn” which is an obvious reference to their history-making show, Oklahoma. However, the action takes place in Kansas (in August) where country-girl June can’t pay the rent on the farm to her landlord, the dark and brooding Jitter. Jitter will forgive the rent if June will marry him, but her heart belongs to the handsome, heroic rancher Big Willy, who pleads, “Don’t Throw OK’s at Me.” Later, the characters gather at a picnic where they serve corn chips and “A Real Nice Clam Dip.”

The second act (“A Little Complex”) is done in the style of Stephen Sondheim and the action takes place in The Woods, an upscale apartment complex in New York City. June, an ingénue, can’t pay the rent to her landlord and unsuccessful artist Jitter, who proclaims, “Que Seurat!” And, the splendid variety continues throughout the next three acts.

The Damascus Theatre Company has assembled a brilliant cast and production staff for this incredibly hilarious and wonderfully entertaining musical.  With professional quality singing, dancing, and comedy, each member of the four-person cast is outstanding in his or her own way as they move effortlessly between sophistication and banality.

Ellie Borzilleri (June) shines as a naïve farm girl, a classy ingénue, a dowdy housekeeper, a triumphant national leader, and a sultry cabaret dancer. Bill Brown (Billy) turns in a superb performance as a rancher, an apartment neighbor, a socialite’s nephew, a South American rebel, and a speakeasy patron. Cheryl J. Campo (Abby) is amazing as a farm woman, an apartment dweller, a socialite, a fading movie star, and a speakeasy dancer. Micky Goldstein (Jitter) is fantastic as a farm owner, a would-be artist, an affluent party-goer, a phantom, and a speakeasy master of ceremonies.

Director/Musical Director Kith Tittermary. Photo by Elli Swink.
Director/Musical Director Keith Tittermary. Photo by Elli Swink.

The multi-talented Keith Tittermary serves as the director, the music director, the pianist, the “orchestra,” and the narrator—and sometimes he even gets into the act!

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) features many fabulous dance numbers, including precision work that is reminiscent of the Rockettes, and Choreographer Megan McNellage rises to the challenge beautifully. Although some past productions of this show used only black shirts and black pants with mock “costume changes,” this production has a bounty of gorgeous, colorful, and sometimes funny costumes. Kudos to Costume Designers Elli Swink and Carol Boyle!

The set design is impeccable. The simplicity of a door, tables, chairs, and a fainting couch combines perfectly with the technology of an upstage projection screen. Between the acts, the screen shows posters of the classic Broadway musicals that are referred to in this show. During the acts, the screen provides scenery to support the narrative. For example, the eerie underground waterway and the famous chandelier from Phantom of the Opera are portrayed effectively (and hilariously) on the screen.

Theatre-goers should know that the school campus venue for this show presents a few minor challenges. While there is a downloadable map on the ticketing webpage, the theatre building and the (non-handicapped) parking lot are somewhat difficult to find in the dark, and there is a bit of a hike between the two. Also, the restrooms are in an adjacent building. However, the opportunity to enjoy the music, the dancing, the comedy, and the fun of this fabulous show is well worth any small inconveniences.

The Damascus Theatre Company’s hilarious production of The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) is truly a treasure! This phenomenal parody is not to be missed!

Running Time: About 1 hour and 45 minutes, with one 20-minute intermission.

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The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) plays through March 1, 2015 at Damascus Theatre Company, performing at Sandy Spring Friends School – 16923 Norwood Road, in Sandy Spring, Maryland.  Purchase tickets at the door or online

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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Paul M. Bessel and Barbara Braswell
The most important thing about Paul M. Bessel is that on January 1, 2011, he married the most wonderful woman in the world, who helped him expand his enjoyment of theater. (The first show he remembers was Fiorello! when he was ten, wearing his first suit.) He and his wife now attend as many musicals, history seminars, and concerts as possible, sometimes as many as 4 or 5 a week, enjoying retirement and the joys of finding love late in life, and going on unconventionally romantic dates such as exhibits of mummies and lectures on parliamentary procedure. They live in Leisure World of Maryland and in addition to going to theaters as often as they can they are active together in community and local political organizations. Barbara Braswell grew up in Newport RI, where Jackie Kennedy once bought her an ice cream cone. She has been interested in theatre her whole life. While pursuing a 33-year career with the U.S. Department of Transportation — helping states build highways, including H-3 in Hawaii, where Barbara helped arrange for a shaman to bless the highway — she attended as many shows as possible on her own, with her late mother, and now with her husband. Now retired, she devotes a great deal of time to theatre, community and local political meetings, and having as much fun as possible.


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