Play:    The Musical of Musicals…the Musical

Group:    Insight Theatre Company

Venue:    Heagney Theater, 530 East Lockwood

Dates:    August 20-24

Story:    What can you say about an idealistic starlet who can’t pay her rent to her avaricious landlord, but is helped in her predicament by an affable young fellow and a mature lady of means?  Well, if you’re Joanne Bogart and Ed Rockwell, you write an amusing book that plays the story out in five different scenarios that each pays homage, poke fun or both at a quintet of shining stars in the musical theater pantheon.

    The result is The Musical of Musicals…the Musical, a clever and entertaining paean to America’s penchant for song and dance on stage that was the debut presentation of Insight Theater Company, our area’s newest professional theater group.  With music by Rockwell and lyrics by Bogart, the pleasant little work is broken into five scenes, each one incorporating the quartet of characters into skits flavored with the musical stylings of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber (and Tim Rice) and Kander & Ebb.

Highlights:    A long-held dream of artistic director Maggie Ryan, Insight Theater has made its debut not only as a new company but also in a new venue, the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves, where Ryan teaches.  With the notable assistance of choreographer Lara Teeter, Ryan’s cast was exuberant and delivered the goods in most sprightly fashion.

    Ed Reggi was a delight throughout, taking full comic aim on the show as the dastardly villain in each of the skits, particularly amusing as “Phantom Jitter” in the Lloyd Webber parody and also as the mincing emcee Jutter in the Kander & Ebb portion.

Other Info:    Nerinx alumna Colleen Caul showed considerable gifts for both comedy and music in the ingénue role, while Jenni Ryan also displayed fine musical talent and a flair for comedy in the diva parts that came complete with faux death scenes.  As Big Willy, Villy and other parts as the wistful young man, Doug Erwin was fine in dramatic elements but just didn’t seem to have the right pitch on many of his musical numbers.

    Pianist Duane Bridges served capably as the musical director, and Maggie Ryan provided some fine opportunities for a dozen high school students to mingle with the pros and get some acting experience.  Jim Ryan provided the colorful, amusing sets, Susan Pennington contributed a number of appealing costumes and everything was lit handsomely by Sarah Hughey.

    Future presentations of the company will run for two or three weekends in the handsome new venue.  It’s nice to welcome another troupe to our town’s burgeoning theatrical roster.

Rating:    A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.