I could say that "The Musical of Musicals: The Musical" is the perfect show to go to if you've already seen every other musical and "9 to 5: the Musical" is the perfect show to go to if you've never seen another musical.
But while on the right track, that would be too simplistic.
"The Musical of Musicals" (staged by Actors Theatre of Indiana at the Studio Theatre through Feb. 24) parodies Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Kander & Ebb by imagining the same plot as if musicalized by each. The puns come fast and furiously, the music slyly evokes the originals without treading into lawsuit territory, and the performances are spirited and knowing. There are even jokes—some of the
of the funniest ones—in the choreography.
Dense in its theater knowledge but slight in its tone, the show makes "Forbidden Broadway" look as thin as a Leno monologue. For some, that might lead to "why is everyone laughing but me?" frustration. But the audience I saw it with, while not getting the more obscure references, seemed to have a very good time with what they did get thanks in part to a score that could teach a thing or two to more ambitious composers. And as far an inconsequential entertainment goes, the show is bliss for musical buffs.
To say that Beef & Board's "9 to 5" (running through March 24) is more fun than the national tour of the Dolly Parton musical that came through town in 2011—or the Broadway production that spawned it—says more about understanding scale than it does about the inherent qualities of this production.
While it doesn't have a breakout performer on the order of Megan Hilty who played the Parton-birthed role in New York, the dinner theater version does have the proper proportions. This is a small show that deserves a small stage, where the pleasures aren't expected to be life changing. It gets that, here, along with a more relatable set of female leads (Annie Edgerton, Sarah Hund, and Crystal Mosser) who never let us forget that this isn't "A Little Night Music." Or even "Legally Blonde."