LINKS
2017-07-12 / News

"Musical of Musicals" opens at Swift Creek

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER


David Atkins (from left), Derrick Jaques, Caroline Whisnant and Paige Reisenfeld star in “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” an homage to Broadway’s greatest composers. The show opens this week at Swift Creek Mill Theatre. 
ASH DANIEL David Atkins (from left), Derrick Jaques, Caroline Whisnant and Paige Reisenfeld star in “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” an homage to Broadway’s greatest composers. The show opens this week at Swift Creek Mill Theatre. ASH DANIEL It’s a problem as old as Moses: the inability to pay the rent. In “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!),” tribute is paid to this age-old plot, as well as to the stylings of some of Broadway’s biggest names: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jerry Herman are all invoked in the five-act show, which opens this week at Swift Creek Mill Theatre.

“It’s not really a parody; it’s an homage, I think, to five great composers, and it takes the same little silly storyline and writes five mini-musicals,” says Tom Width, Swift Creek’s artistic director and director of the show. “All of the music is original, and yet, as soon as you hear it, you can identify who [composer Eric Rockwell is] imitating in terms of style, and that is both baffling and very pleasant.”

The Rodgers and Hammerstein act, for instance, is titled “Corn!” and emulates “Oklahoma!” “South Pacific,” “The Sound of Music,” “The King and I” and “Carousel,” among other works. Set in Kansas, the segment features a character named Jitter who pressures a woman named June to marry him if she can’t pay the rent. The same act features Big Willy, a carnival barker who also wants to marry her, and the matronly Mother Abby, who tells June to follow her dreams.

“It’s basically a love letter to Broadway, where you’re exploring a simple story through five different ways through different Broadway composers,” says Derrick Jaques, who plays Willy, Billy, Bill or Villy, depending on the scene. “It’s hilarious, and the songs are fun. Even if you don’t know the references to musicals – and there are hundreds of references to musicals – it’s still fun.”

Jaques says the Andrew Lloyd Webber section is his favorite. Titled “Aspects of Junita,” the act parodies “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Cats” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Width thinks the show lampoons Sondheim best, satirizing “Into the Woods,” “Company,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Sunday in the Park with George,” among others.

“Sondheim is real rigid and a little bit crazed. Everyone’s moving abrupt, kind of staccato in that one,” says Width, adding that the Jerry Herman portion is “big, broad, dancey, high notes. Leading ladies to die for.”

Of the composers and lyricists parodied, Width says he feels most at home with Rodgers and Hammerstein.

“The Rodgers and Hammerstein stuff from the ’40s is from a different time and style of musical theater, where you talked slower and put a little lilt in your voice,” Width says. “I’ve done so much Rodgers and Hammerstein that that comes pretty easily.”

Playing the Abby/ Abigail character, opera singer Caroline Whisnant says the show is destined to make audiences giggle. “It’s filled with a lot of true, old-fashioned laughs, as well as some puns that the people will get even if they don’t know musical theater, and there are also some deeper things that musical theater nerds will just love,” Whisnant says. “It’s a good escape.”

“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” plays July 13-Aug. 19 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Jefferson Davis Highway, 23834. For more information, visit swiftcreekmill.com or call 748-5203.

Return to top