Those merry scamps in the Reduced Shakespeare Company are back, this time with a musical: "The Complete Millennium Musical," to be precise. Biting off more than they can chew? Hah. These are the guys who condensed both the Bible and the history of America into pun-filled, two-hour evenings.
"The Complete Millennium Musical" is performed at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater by old hands and authors and directors of the show, Reed Martin (the bald one) and Austin Tichenor (the one with hair), as well as a newcomer, Second City alumna Dee Ryan, the first female performer the group has ever had. Ryan apparently feels this slight deeply as she is continually trying to insert into the material references to great women. Mamie Eisenhower seems to be her particular favorite.
Obviously, the show is goofy and all over the place. It also, surprisingly, has a sharp edge. Liberal pieties about the poor and forgotten are skewered by Ryan's continually vain attempts to perform something called "The Unsung Song." There's a nifty little duet by Ghengis Khan and Hitler.
At one point, posing in a chair at his waspishly Noel Cowardish best, Tichenor informs us he's going to sing a ditty called "Do Let's Be Frank (About the Muslims)." Pause. "I know what you're thinking." Longer pause. "Where on earth is he going with this?" He's going into a routine about anti-Muslim stereotyping, actually, but his playing on the audience's nervousness about his and their attitudes is really the point.
There's something performed in tutus called "An Enlightened Dream Ballet" that skewers anti-homosexual prejudice. To a '40s beat, Ryan slinks through an S&M number about the Inquisition ("Let 'em Swing").
Martin rousingly serenades us with "Everybody Hates the French" ("Everybody! Sing along!"). Tichenor has a number of biting numbers, which are enhanced by his rich singing voice.
There's also a lot of just plain silliness, a quality in happy abundance on Washington stages these days what with the Tuna boys next door at the Eisenhower Theater and "The Knight of the Burning Pestle" over at the Folger. As Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the commode, Martin sings "Flush Your Troubles Away." As Freud wearing goggle-eyeball glasses, Ryan hits the open road in "Big Torpedo." Among the "Three Spacemen on the Apollo Ship" is--surprise!--Mamie Eisenhower. The computer running the show has a breakdown. Semiautomatic squirt guns are deployed.
A word to the wise: This isn't a show you can saunter into half an hour late (a common occurrence at the Kennedy Center) without repercussions from the not-at-all-pleased and extremely witty Tichenor. If verbal humiliation doesn't scare you, remember the squirt guns.
You have been warned.
The Complete Millennium Musical (abridged) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, additional material by Dee Ryan. Music composed and arranged by Nick Graham. Directed by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. Musical direction, Nick Graham. At the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater through July 25. Call 202-467-4600.
CAPTION: Austin Tichenor, left, Dee Ryan and Reed Martin form the madcap cast of "The Complete Millennium Musical (abridged)."
CAPTION: Reduced Shakespeareans Reed Martin, Dee Ryan, Austin Tichenor.