Review: The Musical of Musicals the Musical! (Mirvish)

For all lovers of show tunes, The Musical of Musicals the Musical is playing at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre

Take everything you love about musicals and blend that with everything you hate about musicals. Then add in everything you love to hate and hate to love and you get The Musical of Musicals the Musical playing this holiday season at the Panasonic Theatre. It’s a hilarious romp of all things song and dance complete with jazz hands and diva moments.

The concept evolved from the question of why have one musical when you could have five? The same story — girl can’t pay her rent, landlord is happy to take her as payment instead, snarky neighbor offers girl snarky advice, boy-in-love comes in for the rescue — is retold multiple times in the style of musical theatre’s most beloved names: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander & Ebb.

The great thing about this show is that there are a few things that are guaranteed: you are guaranteed not to love every part of it as with most musical aficionados there are shows and styles that you absolutely adore and ones that you abhor (when even a root canal can seem like a better way to spend an evening). And you are guaranteed to laugh.

The show started off with a nod to Rodgers & Hammerstein who wrote Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. Admittedly, they are not my favorite musical duo, Vance, my guest for the evening would agree. We sat and cringed our way through Corn! the excruciatingly hokey tribute (riddled with sexual innuendo, I don’t remember any of their original work being that aggressively suggestive) laughing uncomfortably at how heavily yee-haw the music was.

Following that on a completely different note was A Little Complex in the style of Sondheim of Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods fame. Now this is much more like it as I don’t know a single person that didn’t enjoy Sweeney Todd. With the landlord turned murderously insane pondering the many ways he could off his tenants, the show picked up. Hats off to Mark Cassius (as Jitter the landlord) he pulls off insane quite well.

Dear Abby! tributed Herman who wrote Hello Dolly! Here Paula Wolfson as Abby the snarky neighbor stole the show playing out the tipsy diva returning numerous times to accept her applause. Throughout the productions, the costumes stayed consistent with the actors quickly adding accessories to transition between characters but in this number, with many allusions to various costume changes of elaborate ballgowns, seeing more in way of costumes would’ve been fantastic.

The closing two numbers absolutely made the entire performance. After the intermission — that didn’t feel necessary — came the tribute to everyone’s favorite Webber (and as I mentioned to Vance after the show ‘everyone secretly loves Webber’) in the form of Aspects of Junita. This was Evita meets Phantom of the Opera with nods to Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Sunset Boulevard. As admittedly a fan of Webber, this number delighted me to no end and though I did expect Phantom, Evita was a pleasant surprise and where I found Dana Jean Phoenix (as June, or in this case Junita, the girl who can’t pay her rent) really let her vocal prowess shine.

Speakeasy closed the show honoring Kander & Ebb who did Chicago, Cabaret and many a number for Liza Minnelli. Vance and I were delightfully captured by the weird and wonderful ways they further exaggerated Berlin style cabaret and how they made the Cell Block Tango actually less raunchy.

The Musical of Musicals the Musical is fun all the way around regardless of which style of musical (I’m starting to lose all sense of that word!) you enjoy. Leaving the theatre Vance and I discussed the parts we loved, the parts we didn’t and what songs we wish they would have included which is all part of the joy of the show — everyone will leave humming their favorites. What also stood out for me was the social commentary about musicals written into the fabric of the songs: Why can’t we just talk? Why do we always have to sing? Why are we singing in metaphors that stopped making sense? I don’t even know what we’re talking about anymore.

For any musical fan that has ever belted out Sunset Boulevard in the shower, this is the present for them.

Details

  • The Musical of Musicals The Musical is playing at The Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street).
  • Performances run until January 5, 2013, check website for dates and times.
  • Tickets range from $19 to $79.
  • Tickets can be purchased online at ticketking.com, by phoning 416 872 1212, or in person at the box office at least a half-hour before curtain.

Photo of Dana Jean Phoenix and Mark Cassius by Josie Di Luzio.

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