One Night Stand
24 hours of musical theatre in fun behind-the-scenes film
|One Night Stand|
Review by Lauren Whalen
In the world of live theatre, a dropped line, missed cue or forgotten lyric are embarrassing at best, career suicide at worst. But once a year, all of these and more are forgiven, even rewarded with the audience’s gentle laughter and a helpful fellow actor rushing from backstage with the script. Because when four musicals are written and produced in the span of 24 hours, anything is possible. And as the documentary film One Night Stand shows, it’s all good.
Each year, the best of New York’s bustling theatre world come together for the “24-Hour Musical.” Everyone convenes at 8 p.m., the actors bringing costumes and props to inspire composers and book writers, who then break into teams of two and three to cast and compose four 15-minute musicals by 6 a.m. At 8 a.m. actors receive their assignments and rehearsals begin for the 8 p.m. performance, a fundraiser benefiting The Exchange, a nonprofit theatre organization that supports companies large and small, grand and obscure. Though 15 minutes doesn’t sound like much, any writer or performer knows better: it’s an eternity. Especially when you forget your very first line.
One Night Stand takes its audience through the day of reckoning: from breathless last-minute brainstorming to 4 p.m. frustration to jubilant curtain call. Everyone’s up for the creative challenge, including the impressive array of actors, including those who’ve broken into TV and film (most notably Jesse Tyler Ferguson from “Modern Family”, Rent’s Tracie Thoms, 30 Rock’s Cheyenne Jackson and SNL’s Rachel Dratch). No idea’s too strange, no character too ridiculous. And the energy, waxing and waning as the clock ticks, is palpable through the celluloid. As one young composer observes in a cab on the way to the theatre, the whole operation “just feels very New York.”
I won’t reveal the plots of the four musicals, because it’s just too much fun watching the fatigued composers arrive at conclusions, butt heads and subsequently pen brilliant songs. I will reveal the most endearing part of One Night Stand: Rachel Dratch. Perhaps the most intense presence in the film, she’s eager to please and connect, despite not having performed in a musical since high school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Naturally, the composers want to feature Dratch’s impeccable comic timing, but how to do so with an actress who can’t really sing? “It’s like being in acting class again,” Dratch confesses to the camera, her bug eyes wide and serious. “And there’s a reason I’m an improviser.”
For performers, writers, anyone who’s worked in live theatre or even seen a play, One Night Stand perfectly captures the passionate draw of live theatre: rehearsals can only take a show so far, and unforeseen circumstances arise that must be fixed on the fly. And with that frenetic journey comes an inexplicable charge. Everyone’s working toward a common goal, even if that goal involves a sensual dance with a bottle of Purell. Whether you’re a sleep-deprived composer, a game actor or an expectant audience member, you feel the charge, all night long.
One Night Stand will have a one time only showing as part of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival on Sunday, April 15th. Associate Producer and Editor Karen Weinberg will be present for a Q&A. The film will be shown with the 23-minute short Incest!: The Musical.
One Night Stand plays at 1pm on Sunday, April 15th at the Logan Theatre, 2646 N. Milwaukee (map), as part of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival. Tickets are $7, and can be purchased in advance at Eventbrite.com. More information at CIMMFest.org or IncubationFilms.com. (Running time: 74 minutes)
Roger Bart, Rachel Dratch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Cheyenne Jackson, Richard Kind, Nellie McKay, Tracie Thoms, Mandy Gonzalez, Alicia Witt, Tamara Tunie, Michael Longoria, John Ellison Conlee, Marnie Schulenburg
behind the scenes