by Chris Davis
MOM:TM plays out like an improv comedy game. Four core characters— the boy, the girl, a wise older woman, and a greedy landlord— tell one simple story five different ways in the style of composers Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Kander & Ebb. The plot distilled: “I can’t pay the rent”/”But you must pay the rent.” (Rent, get it?) And that’s just about all there is to that.
Daniel Kopera’s all purpose pink and purple set telegraphs instantly that the audience is in for a bare bones theatrical drenched in cheap sparkly stuff. The strong ensemble cast, dressed all in black with sequins and rhinestones, fulfill every garish promise.
Musical of Musicals is a perfect showcase for Jude Knight, a veteran of the musical stage who has appeared in many of the show’s she’s spoofing. She brings fun understatement to an over-the-top ensemble. Amy (Polumbo) Nabors gives a standout performance as the all purpose blonde, matching fantastic singing with hilarious character development. Multiple threat performer Brennan Villines is always a pleasure in song and dance roles, but nothing beats the joy of watching Kent Fleshman try his hand at spoofing the Emcee from Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret. This isn’t the sort of role a beefy baritone like Fleshmen would ever have the chance to play otherwise and he just goes for it.
The real star of this ensemble show show is just off stage: musical director/accompanist Gary Beard who has been given all the show’s secret laugh lines, and who nails every single one.
Over the years director Bennett Wood has staged many a classy musical revue and there are moments when one gets the sense that he’s spoofing himself as much as anybody else.
I don't want to encourage bad habits, but a few cocktails before showtime isn't a bad idea. This is a lounge act disguised as theater. Or maybe it's the other way around.
Musical of Musicals: The Musical is at Theatre Memphis through November 23