[title of show] started out as a one act musical written by Hunter Bell (book) and Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics). The performance is an account of the show’s own creation for the New York Musical Theatre Festival and follows the struggles of the show’s creators and their two friends in the period leading up to the show’s production.
The show was chosen by the Festival’s panel and premiered there in September 2004. Funnily enough, [title of show] depicts their journey from the Festival, to off-Broadway and finally to Broadway which provides the basis for a second act.
The musical takes form as a show within a show, with backstage antics much like in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate where the actors are putting on a show of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. [title of show] will undoubtedly appeal to musical theatre fans who recognise the tropes of the musical theatre genre.
The best thing about the show is how it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Scenes are brought to abrupt halts if the characters feel it’s needed, characters move between the show and the show within the show as if it’s completely natural (one example being a discussion spurred by chair sliding across the stage to represent time has passed) and Susan responding to her silence by stating, “I haven’t had a line until now.”
The scenes are split up by various characters leaving voicemails for Jeff (played by Daniel Mack Shand) in a clear reference to the musical, RENT. In fact, the references are laid on heavily but are perfectly spread out so it doesn’t feel forced in the narrative.
It’s amazing to think of the weeks of rehearsals that went into a show that very much feels like it’s being made up as it happens (which is essentially what its conception is). This just goes to show how talented the cast are at making everything seem so natural.
Heidi (Chloe Hawkins) and Susan (Malindi Freeman) play secondary characters, they even sing about that, but they provide some of the best punch lines and most memorable moments from the show. Their duet “What Kind of Girl is She?” really showcases their stunning singing voices as well as their perfect comic timing.
Hunter (Louie Westwood) is a rather flamboyant and enthusiastic to Jeff’s more understated and calm character. This cast shows that you don’t need a massive ensemble and an extravagant set to get to Broadway if the writing and performance is on point.
The first act is more engaging than the second one but the whole show is completely absurd and absolutely fantastic.
[title of show] plays Waterloo East Theatre until 25 September 2016. For more information and tickets, see Waterloo East Theatre website.