Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Ivoryton Playhouse’s latest musical is the world premiere of “I Hate Musicals.” “I Hate Musicals” features a script by Mike Reiss and new music by Walter Murphy who wrote the classic 1970’s song “A Fifth of Beethoven” which was used in “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. Mike Reiss, who hails from Bristol, Connecticut and won an Emmy for the Simpsons creates a masterful script that leaves you laughing in the aisles.
He is an equal opportunity insulter of everyone and everything from Catholics to Jews to Sondheim and beyond. It’s the story of a cranky comedy writer trapped in the rubble of an LA earthquake. His life is playing out before his eyes as a musical and the thing is that he hates musicals. This show is one man’s zany ride through relationships with mothers and fathers, wives and analysts and with a host of surprising characters making unexpected appearances, think Jesus, the BVM and Sigmund Freud to name a few. Ultimately, the story is a traditional one about life, love, show business and being kind. James Valletti casts these roles splendidly and has a keen eye for comic situations and clever shtick to give his hard working cast who win a resounding standing ovation at the close of this ninety minute musical performed without an intermission.
Delivering a tour-de-force performance is Stephen Wallum as Alvin Gordon, a Catholic man who has been divorced and acts like a cranky Scrooge. His latest plays have been flops, his earnings from hit TV shows that he wrote for have been squandered on his ungrateful, cheating ex-wife, Brie who is dumber than dirt. Alvin is pitching an idea for a new TV show called “My Brother, the Pope” to a bitchy TV executive when the earthquake strikes and puts things into focus for him after some eventful sightings and revelations along the way. Stephen never leaves the stage, delivers his one liners perfectly and can deliver the goods in the comic parodies of songs during the show. Will Alvin ever win his very own Emmy, will he ever have a hit Broadway show? See this brilliant musical and you will find out the answers to these questions and also hear a song insulting Sondheim’s inability to write hummable songs which stopped the show with hilarity.
Bruce Connelly stops the show as Lee Rosenblatt, Alvin’s agent who lives in Hawaii and promises to call 911 to rescue him from the rubble of the quake. His phone conversations are hilarious. Will Clark also shines as Jesus who appears to Alvin in a moment of crisis and as his real Dad who encouraged him and gave him positive reinforcement while growing up. Dad and Mom sing a parody of “You Are What You Are” to bolster Alvin up when he thinks he’s bound for hell.
Sam Given is a hoot as the Security Guard, the tres gay,Jerome who sings and dances up a storm as the founder of the VD vaccine done to “Get Me to the Church” melody and a dancer who does splits in a Broadway show. Sam is also hilarious as Freud when he psychoanalyzes Alvin and reveals his true past heritage. Amanda Huxtable shines in her many roles in the show, giving each one a distinct and different characterization. She plays Diane, the bitchy TV executive, as the sexy, dumb ex-wife Brie, who has some funny one liners while revealing who she slept with, Virgin Mary who condemns Alvin to hell for eating a hamburger on a Friday when it was forbidden and a Mom who comforts Alvin in a moment of distress. Basso profundo Ryan Knowles uses his strong singing voice as the pompous theatre professor faux dad of Alvin who wasn’t proud of his son when he played Yente in “Fiddler”, as the Priest Natsami who encouraged Alvin to eat at McDonalds and as the Devil. There is a song and dance to hamburgers that has to be seen to be believed. I don’t want to give away too many details of this terrific musical that is hopefully headed to Broadway with its clever, well written script, tale of redemption and fabulous acting by one and all. So for a spectacular new musical, be sure to catch “I Hate Musicals” and believe me you definitely won’t hate musicals after you see this one. Tell them Tony sent you.
I HATE MUSICALS (27 September to 8 October)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St, Ivoryton, CT
1(860)767-7318 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org