(L to R) Taylor Kearschner, Jake Minton, James Thompson, Daniel Riddlesmith, Mimi Housewright, Greg Collier, (Front) Elizabeth Ruwe, Caitlin Bias in The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!). Photo: Dan Canon

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)

Music by Eric Rockwell, lyrics by Joanne Bogart
Book by Rockwell and Bogart
Directed by Jennifer Starr
Music Directed by Angie Renee Hopperton

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Who doesn’t like a good Broadway musical? There ain’t nothing like characters breaking into song and dance, is there?  Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerry Herman, Kander and Ebb, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber…the list of greats goes on and on. And this is exactly what Mind’s Eye Theater Company has in store for their current show! The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) takes on the heavy hitters of the genre and crams the show with jokes and buffoonery while poking fun at storylines and archetypes of musical theater.

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) is certainly a mouthful to say and intentionally cheeky. Staged in the round at the New Albany Performing Arts Center, actors appear in black clothing with just the right costume pieces or props to convey the gist of whatever show is being lampooned. Divided into six fully realized scenes with boundless references, deep cuts, and puns, the show both pays loving tribute to Broadway while playfully teasing so even the biggest cynics would enjoy it. 

If there was ever a show for small community-based theater troupes, this would be it. Actors appear on stage with plastic hats and handmade props in salute to the obvious larger-scale productions like birds in the air, grand staircases, and the Phantom of the Operas famous chandelier. Even if this show is stripped down for comedic effect, the performances are never minimized. Music Director, Angie Renee Hopperton keeps the pace moving along behind her singular keyboard. Reading stage directions and providing the most basic information, Hopperton delivers an appropriately dry delivery as she plays an impressive range of musical parodies. While the show is full of fun and laughs, some moments are underwhelming. Director Jennifer Starr was left in the dark (literally) many times throughout as she was introducing the names of the different scenes. It’s difficult to tell if this was a choice or a delay from the tech crew.

It might help to have a vast knowledge of musical theater and history but if you do not, I promise that you will not feel lost. The show provides four roles for eight actors; an ingenue, her love interest, the villain, and an older leading lady. Will the ingénue be able to pay her rent by the end of the show and end up with her true love? It is clear that she certainly will but how the plot is affected by different styles is part of the fun. Mimi Housewright is a total diva channeling her inner Ethel Merman during the third act in Aunt Abby, a parody of Jerry Herman’s star-making shows like Hello Dolly and Mame. Taylor Kearschner and Elizabeth Ruwe show pizazz as the ingénue. Kearschner brings loads of sap and doe-eyed perfection as a farm girl, her hyperactive “Juney with a J” is a highlight of the show. Ruwe fills the room with her rock opera vocals and overemphatic (appropriately) acting which pairs nicely with Jake Minton’s eye rolling as her would-be lover. Ruwe shows off some nice comedic dancing abilities during the show’s “highly symbolic ballet.”

Although the audience was very small, the cast brought full house energy. Greg Collier’s villain embraces his Phantom-type role as he saunters the stage and swishes his cape. James Thompson appropriately channels Curly from Oklahoma in one scene and delivers deadpan comedy as a young boy who will “one day wear long pants when he is forty.” Daniel Riddlesmith’s turn as the villain is less threatening as he literally emcees the final scene. He leads the company in a rollicking musical number worthy of Bob Fosse.

With kick lines, not-so-special effects, and lots of laughs, The Musical of Musicals (the Musical!) is a good time. This show proves how entertaining and influential musical theater can be. And after these past few years, it is nice to remember that theater, from local shows to Broadway, is back in business. 

Featuring Caitlin Bias, Greg Collier, Mimi Housewright, Taylor Kearschner, Jake Minton, Daniel Riddlesmith, Elizabeth Ruwe, James Thompson

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)

September 23, 24, 30 & October 1 at 7:30 pm
September 25 & October 2 at 2:30 pm

Mind’s Eye Theater Company
New Albany Performing Arts Center
203 East Main Street
New Albany IN 47150

Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!