Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review of [title of show]

[title of show], the first musical of the new Broadway season, gives hope to the multitudes of individuals that dream of creating a show for The Great White Way. Hunter Bell, who wrote the show’s book; and Jeff Bowen, the score; were two out of work actors when the genesis of their quirky, decidedly downtown flavored show, came together. Simply, with three weeks until the submission deadline for the 2004 New York Musical Theater Festival, the two thespians concocted a musical based on two struggling actors named, surprisingly, Jeff and Hunter, who have only three weeks to write a musical for an upcoming festival. The rest is, as they say, theatrical history:
  1. their entry was accepted.
  2. after playing their six performances at the New York Musical Theater Festival, an Off-Broadway producer optioned the production for an open run at the Vineyard Theater.
  3. a cast album was recorded and released on Ghostlight Records.
  4. after the Off-Broadway stint, the two collaborators produced a series of Internet videos for YouTube to keep interest in their off-spring alive.
  5. the videos reignited interest from producers.
  6. the newly tweaked [title of show] opened on Broadway.
So, what exactly is [title of show]? Well, it is not a large scale musical with a huge cast, lavish sets, over produced production numbers, or a fully stocked pit band. [title of show] consists of four, casually dressed people—Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, and their two female friends—Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff--who work on bringing the musical to life in Hunter’s slightly drab apartment. With only four chairs on stage, along with musical director, Larry Pressgrove, sitting behind his keyboard—the sole musical accompaniment, [title of show] concentrates on the actor’s angst and insecurities and, finally, their exuberance as they conceive and mold their show.

The 90 minute, intermissionless production, caters to a more knowing theater going crowd then a bridge and tunnel or tourist clientele. Obscure musical theater and cultural references populate the show. One ongoing gimmick is listening to the playback of Hunter’s answering machine as one musical theater actress after another, including Marin Mazzie, Alice Ripley, and Christine Ebersole, turn down an offer to appear in their show. The casual theater going public would probably be scratching their head for lack of recognition (okay, they would know Patti Lupone), but for people like myself the bit brought a knowing smile.

One of the best numbers in the production is a showcase for the arcane as memorable, and not so memorable, Broadway flops are commemorated in the song, “Monkeys and Playbills,” which incorporates the titles of such failed shows as “Dude,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Smile” and many others into the lyrics of the song. The July 27, 2008 broadcast of “On Broadway” features these songs.

The four actors are affable and funny while at the same time exuding the whole gamut of emotions—the good, the bad, the ugly--inherent in individuals pursing the acting profession. The score can be witty and knowing; the direction and choreography by Michael Berresse is breezy and light.

[title of show], a musical that provides proof in the power of positive thinking as well as being a tonic for all the musical theater aficionados in the world.