There have been many musicals written that have a show within a show. This is where there is a fictional show within the show usually making up the basis of the storyline. The show within a show structure can be an excellent vehicle to showcase a stand-alone song or give the ensemble and featured dancers a chance to shine with some significant choreography and character acting. The show within a show can also be a great way to present comedy especially if the show within the show is of a deliberate low quality.
Here are my top 5 shows that are a ‘show within a show’ show. I assure you that this list will not contain The Small House of Uncle Thomas from The King & I.
Keystone Cops/Bathing Beauties – Mack & Mabel
Based on the true story of the romance between Hollywood director, Mack Sennett and his leading lady, Mabel Normand – Mack & Mabel uses the ‘show within a show’ structure to great effect. Set in the time of silent movies, Keystone Cops and Bathing Beauties, there is room for hilarious slapstick routines and choreographed dancing girls. With Mack’s commitment to making the world laugh, the comedy and glamourous aspects of the ‘show within a show’ contrasts the dramatic and sad aspects of Mack & Mabel’s lives ‘off the screen’ perfectly.
[Title of Show] – [Title of Show]
[Title of Show] cleverly chronicles its own creation. Initially “a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical”, the musical depicts the making and the leadup to the opening of the ‘show within a show’, [Title of Show]. To make things even more insular the writers of [Title of Show] have released a vlog ‘the [Title of Show] Show’ ensuring that I have used the word ‘show’ more times than I’d intended in this blog. Confused? Yeah. Sorry about that…
Rose Louise and Her Hollywood Blondes – Gypsy
Gypsy focuses on the ultimate stage mum, Rose, and her obsession with pushing her children to perform in the growingly unpopular vaudeville scene. With her daughter, June, leaving her mother, Rose turns her focus to her other daughter, the shy and less-talented Louise. I concede that Rose Louise and Her Hollywood Blondes is only one of the acts in Gypsy. I certainly also include Baby June and Her Newsboys, Dainty June and Her Farm Boys, Madame Rose’s Toreadorables and ultimately Gypsy Rose Lee’s successful burlesque career. With Rose projecting her lack of success onto her children in an attempt to gain stardom vicariously, the ‘show within a show’ structure is really the only way to present this critically acclaimed musical.
Pretty Lady – 42nd Street
As Mara so expertly expressed with Miranda Musical Society in 2004 “Julian Marsh is putting on a show”. The Tony award winning 42nd Street is primarily a dance production with a fluffy love/girl makes good storyline tying it all together. The signature songs are plentiful with ‘Go into Your Dance’, ‘We’re in the Money’, ‘Lullaby of Broadway’, ‘Dames’, ‘Shuffle off to Buffalo’ and ‘Forty-Second Street’. However, it is the high energy, highly skilful dance element of ‘Pretty Lady’, ‘the show within a show’, that keeps it at the top of any tappers list of must-do shows.
- Don Quixote de La Mancha – Man of La Mancha
- Robbin’ Hood – Curtains
- The Taming of the Shrew – Kiss Me Kate
- The Drowsy Chaperone – The Drowsy Chaperone
- Zangler Follies – Funny Girl
Springtime for Hitler – The Producers
Here’s the scheme: Step 1: Find the worst play ever written. Step. Step. Step. Step 5: Close on Broadway, take two million, and go to Rio. Unfortunately, for Bialystock and Bloom not everything goes to plan. This ‘show within a show’, Springtime for Hitler is a smash hit! This “love letter to Adolf Hitler” is Mel Brooks at his finest. Taking something potentially so offensive and satirising it with precision including an ensemble of stormtroopers, over-sized German stereotypes and an exaggeratedly camp Adolf, this ‘show within a show’ is thoroughly enjoyable and the integral piece of The Producers.
What do you think of my Fantastix 5?
What is your favourite ‘show within a show’ show?
What would you have included?
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Until next time.