By Ed Malin
In a world of crooks and unscrupulous press, imagine you are a broke theater producer itching to put on a production of The Threepenny Opera (that classic show about thieves). Grand Theft Musical uses high and low comedy to address themes of love, musical theater envy, and crime. The tap dancing such a proposition implies comes from the work of the late famous Chicago theatrician Robert Sickinger (specifically his 1994 work Platinum Taps), transformed and rewritten by director and collaborator Lissa Moira, with John Taylor Thomas’s compositions and the usual dream team of performers.
Back in one of the golden ages of Broadway, William Gandolph Furst (William Broderick) is a lovable villain, also known as “the Worm”, who breaks his victim just as he breaks stories in his newspaper. He has a stable of lovers (both female and queen) who ferret out news for the dirty rat. Meanwhile, there’s a good girl, sort of, named Shoshana (Becca Gottlieb) whose stage name is “Sugar Cohen”. Jacks Bagelman (Jonathan Fox Powers) is the producer who loves Sugar Cohen, but ow can he marry the dear until he makes a pile of money? While Sherry, a.k.a. dazzlingly blonde Inger (Bevin Bell Hall) spies for Furst, Jacks gathers his associates, Arnold “Benny” Benedict (Robert Homeyer) and the larger-than-life Russian émigré director-type Misha Goss (David F. Slone, Esq.) to create a surefire theatrical cash cow. This would be a good time to point out that “mishigas” (see: Misha Goss) is Yiddish for “craziness”, and that’s what these schemers—who namedrops a certain Bialystock (of The Producers fame)—deliver. Also, Jacks’s office is full of posters (Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Camelot) which lend their plot-twists to the pretzel-logic of the musical-within-the-musical. However, there is much of the unique within the show’s two ironic, comedic acts.
This lovely, full-length musical has something for everyone. Fans of the American songbook will enjoy all the inside jokes. Sexual innuendo abounds, as well. Musical Director Andy Peterson keeps the show’s 24 musical numbers rolling along, and a team of choreographers (J. Allan Hanna, Carlos Gomez, Mallory Brophy and Alex Hayden Miller) provide classy tap-dancing for Gino and many swoonable moments for the ensemble. A lot of love for the genre and for the late Sickinger went into this production, which has been getting packed houses. You will probably want to see what all the commotion is about.