“Musical: the Musical” will open Thursday at Shadowbox Live
With the title “Musical: The Musical,” Shadowbox Live doesn’t hide the topic of its latest show.
The musical comedy about musical comedy will open Thursday at the troupe’s Brewery District home.
“I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a comedy musical with a standard love story that really explores all those classic cliches and tropes that show up in almost every musical,” said Robbie Nance, co-writer with Jimmy Mak. “We had the idea of directly spoofing specific things, but we turned away from that really quick. … This is a show for everyone, no matter their experience with musicals,”
Set in the late 1990s, the two-act musical focuses on Oklahoma girl Melody (Summit J. Starr), who dreams of a show-biz career, and farm boy Cleff (John Boyd), who’s fallen in love with her but keeps his feelings hidden.
“It’s not a spoof of musicals, but the songs follow a formula,” said Nance, who also plays Archie Villaine, the boyfriend of Melody’s aunt.
“A lot of songs will remind fans of musicals of classic shows like ‘Chicago,’ ‘Rent,’ ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Wicked.’”
Starr plays the leading role of singer Melody and the supporting role of Stella Star, the niece of a mob boss.
“Like Melody, Stella wants to be a big star onstage, but she’s abrasive and bratty and has an extremely annoying voice,” Starr said.
When big-city gangsters decide to put on a musical to make money to pay back the mob boss, they’re forced to cast no-talent Stella.
“They find that Melody looks a lot like Stella … and they think they can replace her with Melody,” Starr said.
“Unfortunately, they have to teach Melody to sound as bad as Stella so the mob boss doesn’t know she’s been replaced.”
Among Starr’s songs: “Some Day I’ll Be a Star Some Day,” a first-act solo at the bus stop where Melody explains to Cleff about her dream to become famous; “Remembrances,” a song about her dead cat that is modeled on “Memories” from “Cats”; and “Make It Your Day,” an upbeat anthem sung in the musical-within-the-musical, which has a “Wizard of Oz” theme.
“Even with our nods to musical theater and paying homage to specific shows, this is still an original story with genuine emotions, word play and slapstick humor,” Starr said.
For his first full original score, composer-lyricist Kevin Patrick Sweeney wrote 20 songs.
“Each song takes on a different musical-theater style,” said Sweeney, a company band member, music director and singer.
“The overture is very traditional, like ‘Hooray for Hollywood,’ with a kicky chorus line of sounds. … The finale goes back and touches on the previous melodies and lyrics, with the theme songs reprised and layered over each other.”
The range of music varies, from the rock of “Rent” and jazzy speak-easy rhythms of “Chicago” to the contemporary Broadway belting of “Wicked.”
“I didn’t want to spoof songs that people knew but find sounds inspired by Broadway shows,” Sweeney said.
“Musical: The Musical” also gave Nance and Mak a chance to pay tribute to their favorite type of zany comedy, from the Zucker Brothers film comedies (“Airplane!”) and Mel Brooks to Looney Tunes cartoons.
“Jimmy and I have a similar sense of humor and a deep love of these comedy-classic films and cartoons,” Nance said.
“When writing the script, we kept coming back to the beautiful pace and delivery in ‘Airplane!” If possible, we wanted to get as much goofy fun into this show as possible.”