About six years ago, Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater presented its first-ever production, The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) by Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell, at Boynton’s Taproom in Manchester. It got rave reviews and put the theater company on the map.
“It was a really popular show when we did it. We got asked to perform it elsewhere after the original run,” Jamie Feinberg, company founder, show co-director and piano accompanist, said via phone.
And so, when the theater company at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Vermont requested they perform it again this winter, NYMMT decided it was time to bring The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) back for a few more runs. The show kicks off its New England tour at Amoskeag Studio in the Waumbec Mill in Manchester, on Thursday, Feb. 11.
The cast — Mario Arruda, Joey T. (who would only give his stage name), Ally Holmes, Jocelyn Duford and Nat Ward — met at the venue for the first time about a week and a half before showtime, running through lines and determining how to configure the space to best suit their performance. They rolled in a coat rack of costumes and accessories, ranging from simple to sequined, and pulled out an assortment of chairs to get started.
The play, they said, pokes fun at stereotypical musicals by performing the same story five different times in five different styles.
“I love musical theater in general, and this spoofs all the different genres of musical theater and five of the most well-known composers of Broadway,” said Joey T. “The basic premise of the show: It’s the old melodrama of the fair maiden who can’t pay her rent, and the evil landlord who wants her to pay her rent or else he’s going to take her away. And then the hero comes in and saves the day by paying the rent.”
One take has an Oklahoma! personality, with plaid button-ups and chipper tunes. Another has a dark, melodramatic Stephen Sondheim theme, and another is an Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque rock opera (think Phantom of the Opera or Jesus Christ Superstar). There are also references to Hello, Dolly! and Mame, Chicago and Cabaret.
This production occurs after four years of its almost seasonal Something Wonderful I Missed concert series, highlighting music from lesser-known musical theater shows. NYMMT performed its last one in November.
“We’re focusing on our professional touring group. The reason we stopped — we felt we wanted to leave while it was still exciting to be doing them,” Feinberg said.
Amoskeag Studio fits NYMMT’s fondness for unconventional venues. Members have performed on covered bridges, in bars and restaurant aisles, and Amoskeag Studio fit the bill this time around for its avant-garde feel. By day it’s Matthew Lomanno’s photography studio, with brick walls, high ceilings, large windows and hardwood floors. By night, it’s a place for intimate performance. Since he began renting space three years ago, Lomanno said, the studio has housed performers of all genres, musician to storyteller, actor to singer.
“This particular performance venue is so small, we don’t even need to have mikes. We can just perform the show acoustically,” Fenberg said. “It’s so much fun to be right there with the audience and feed off their reactions. It’s live theater. It’s something special, and it’s even more special if you’re almost having a conversation with the actors as you’re watching a show.”
Duford said this works the other way, from the perspective of an actor, as well.
“You’ve got a much better connection, and you get a much better read of [audience members]. If I’m this far away from you and I do something that’s funny, and you like that, I’m going to keep doing that same thing,” Duford said. “It’s really like you’re getting 20-plus musicals in one. It’s like the Reader’s Digest for musical theater.”