Cliff Wallgren
Kyle Olsen and Julie Waite in WSU's "Musical of Musicals: The Musical."

MUSICAL OF MUSICALS: THE MUSICAL, Browning Center, Weber State University, Ogden, through Saturday (800-978-8457), running time: 90 minutes (one intermission)

OGDEN — One of the patrons at Friday night's opening of "Musical of Musicals" wondered aloud if what looked like a five-act production would last five hours, going well past midnight.

But composer Eric Rockwell and lyricist Joanne Bogart have managed to squeeze 42 songs into what boils down to 5 1/2 short scenes, all poking fun at six Broadway and London West End icons.

The five main scenes are built around a single plot concept — the old melodrama scenario of "I can't pay the rent," with a hero gallantly coming forward to rescue the damsel in distress.

Rockwell and Bogart have to be two of the brightest, savviest collaborators around. Each of the scenes (except the finale) is built around four characters, all with variations of four similar names — June, William, Abby and Jitter.

It's an entertaining show that fires hilarious potshots at Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and John Kander and Fred Ebb. And it's the kind of musical comedy that choreographer/director Jim Christian can really sink his creative teeth into.

The all-student ensemble is huge — four different performers in each of the main scenes, plus appearances by several stagehands.

Here are just a few of the many stand-outs:

• "Corn," a mix of Rodgers and Hammerstein hits, including "Carousel," "The Sound of Music," "Oklahoma" and even "Cinderella," with Kyle Olsen as heroic cowboy Big Willy, and Tiara Wallgren as Mother Abby, who is part Aunt Eller, part Mother Abyss and part Nettie Fowler (from "Carousel"). The funniest bits are Willy's "Sowillyquey" and the townsfolk celebrating the wedding party's "Delicious Clam Dip."

• "A Little Complex" celebrates the complexity of Sondheim's lyrics with four very odd residents of a New York apartment complex called "The Woods." (Get it? They all end up going into ... the Woods.) The landlord, Jitter (well played by Isaac Lauritzen) has a dark, Sweeney Todd side to him. Debating the best way to seek revenge on the others, he notes " ... hemlock is easy, but too Socrates-y."

• "Dear Abby," a frothy puree of Herman's "Auntie Mame" and "Hello, Dolly," has Auntie Abby (Julie Silvestro Waite) as the life of an endless party. "Take My Advice and Live!" she tells her circle of friends and her bright young nephew, William (Scott Stuart).

• "Aspects of Junita" is Lloyd Webber's turn to be musically roasted in a hilarious bit that features Becca Lemon as Junita (think "Evita") and the menacing Sir Phantom Jitter (Dustin Bolt) as her masked landlord. She spurns his pleas to become his new star: "I do rock opera, not mock opera," she retorts, adding she doesn't want to be merely a star, she wants to be a super- star! Alicia Washington is "over the hill and over the top" as Abigail von Schtarr, straight out of "Sunset Boulevard." There are also some clever digs at "Cats" and "Starlight Express."

• "Speakeasy" tackles two big Kander and Ebb hits, "Chicago" and "Cabaret." Fraulein Abby (Ariana Escalante) is deeply in debt to prohibition-era Chicago cabaret master of ceremonies Jutter (Mike Hernandez). Not surprisingly, with its daring costuming and sensual themes, "Speakeasy" is slightly naughty.

• For the big wind-up, yet another icon — the work of Bob Fosse — is spotlighted in "Done" (yeah, it spoofs "One"), with the entire ensemble strutting through a show-stopping "Chorus Line"-type finale.

"Musical of Musicals" captures the essence of these Broadway legends with savvy lyrics and Christian's flawless choreography. Pianist Steve Barlow skillfully accompanies the proceedings.

Sensitivity rating: A few PG or maybe PG-13 moments, notably in Big Willy's soliloquy and the "Speakeasy" segment, but it's all good-natured fun.


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