[title of show] is a musical about two men, two nobodies, in New York who dream of achieving Broadway fame with their very own original musical.
During its original run the writers of the show played themselves- Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, with Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell. They start by roping in two of their female friends, and getting a keyboard and four chairs. What follows is a very meta and fun celebration of the very act of creativity and the genre of musical theatre. It most definitely caters strongly to musical theatre nuts who will laugh at every musical and lyrical nod to other musicals and to musical theatre structure. Still, even the musical theatre virgins out there will enjoy the very quirky humour as well as the uplifting message that you should just go for it and dare to dream big.
This production of the show by Understudy Productions was a lot of fun. The set and lighting are low key- which lends the show the understated, natural feel it needs to be effective. For me the show’s charm comes from the fact that you feel privileged to get a rare insight into not only the individuals who the characters are based on, but into the creative process itself. Having sat around pianos writing songs and scripts with friends myself, it really captures the playful, joyful atmosphere of writing with good friends where you can be as silly as anything. There are so many in-jokes in this show, but since the audience is there for their inception they serve to engage rather than alienate. Joel Curtis-Larry navigated the musical direction with aplomb, and Ian Good’s direction was smooth and served the show’s comedy well.
The cast of four are all strong. Jackson McGovern (Hunter), Alexander Woodward (Jeff), Aurélie Roque (Susan) and Lauren McKenna (Heidi) all have solid singing voices (harmonies were spot on, which is important when so much of the music relies on vocals, supported only by a single piano). McGovern and Woodward had a believably affectionate and teasing chemistry on stage. McKenna deserves a special mention for her beautiful voice, and Roque deserves a second equally special mention for her fabulously straight face and comic timing that made the most of her character’s sarcasm.
So, go see [title of show]. It’s about friendship, working through your insecurities, never compromising, and to just go for it (whatever ‘it’ is for you). You’re enough with only that keyboard. You’ll be fine with only four chairs. [title of show] is currently rocking hard with only four chairs at the Hayward Street Studios, Stafford until October 10.