Credit: Smart Yeti Creative Agency

Probably the cleverest thing about this Annoyance show, which promises to deliver eight minimusicals, is its title. The second cleverest thing is its opening number, choreographed by Lily Staski and packed with tongue-in-cheek renditions of various Broadway dance clichés and references, in both lyrics and tune, to Bob Fosse and the song “All That Jazz,” from the musical Chicago. After that, it’s all downhill.

The premise of the show is that we are watching the work of an as yet unknown writer of musicals, identified in the program as “Ruth Lloyd Webber (no relation),” but referred to the night I saw the show as “Bobby Lloyd Webber,” and played rather stiffly by an understudy, Ryan Livingston. The show is supposed to be the culmination of Lloyd Webber’s 30 years of struggle to break in as a performer. The musicals themselves are forgettable little sketches, most of which have nothing to say about musical theater in general or the state of Broadway today. One piece tries to shock by being about the murdered child pageant performer JonBenét Ramsey, but it’s pretty toothless. (Has Lloyd Webber never heard of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins?) Another tries to wring laughs out of a musical about Cleopatra.

The pieces, even the songs, were written by an ensemble of trained improvisers (David Yontz is credited in the program for “original music direction,” though Heidi Joosten is the show’s current music director)—and it shows. The minimusicals all have a shallow improv feel to them, though they lack the spontaneity and joy of discovery of pure improv. The show is well paced, though, and is crisply directed (by Charley Carroll) and packed with lots of well executed dance numbers. But ultimately there is no “there there” here.   v