[title of show]
[insert a good review]
|The Brown Paper Box Co. presents|
|[title of show]|
Review by Clint May
If there’s one major quibble to be had with Brown Paper Box’s [title of show], it’s the location. As an over-the-top valentine to musical theatre nerds and the act of musical creation, this is really a show that needs to move closer to Boystown and the devotees of all things showtunes. At the very least, it should consider doing a few performances at Sidetrack during musical night. Any other caveats for potential viewers would be related to those esoteric qualifiers.
This is a work of meta-non-fiction that plays with reality more than a typical Escher (one favorite exchange: “You haven’t said anything in a while” “I didn’t have a line until right now”). That may sound like a tiresome retread to many*, and I had some reservations walking in. Lord knows I witnessed too many a student do the old “can’t think of idea/show self looking for ideas” art piece in school with the intent of looking original. Thankfully [title of show] is disarmingly charming and well-written, and while it may be too inconsequential to be a grand musical, as a piece of zippy fun, one could do worse on a hot July evening.
[title of show] chronicles its own creation in a three week timeframe leading up to the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004. Best gay buddies Hunter (Matt Frye) and Jeff (Yando Lopez) are a writer and composer, respectively (“Two Nobodies in New York”), who seem more interested in “procrastubrating” and watching “The Bachelor” than actually generating a work themselves. With a little mutual cajoling, the process begins. Any creative can tell you the hard part is the blank sheet of paper staring you down (“An Original Musical”), and [title of show] is also an ode to the necessity of just doing the work required instead of waiting for the perfect idea.
Roped into the action are two gal pals Susan (Neala Barron) and Heidi (Anna Schutz), who act as voices in the heads of the writers. Susan reminds them to watch out for energy-sucking ‘vampires (“Die, Vampire, Die!”) and they get a duet singing of the life as subplot elements (“Secondary Characters”).
Following the tract of so many creative teams, there are bumps and hurdles, crippling doubts, fears of selling out and dizzying heights of success. When the show is picked up, the team languish in the adoration of famous fans until the show’s end. Will the show have the legs to get to Broadway (“Development Medley”/”Change It, Don’t Change It”)? Relationships are strained as the pressure gets to them (“Awkward Photoshoot”/”A Way Back to Then”) before a resolution to do the right thing (“Nine People’s Favorite Thing”) leads everyone to a bright and happy future…-ish.
The cast’s elan goes a long way towards making the 90-minute production fly by and the retread of the entire epiphenomenon more palatable. Director M. William Paneck keeps the cast—with their very relatable quirks and personalities—balanced, and only stops the tongue-in-cheek mugging long enough for a wee bit of 11th-hour tension to creep in. Frye is the real standout, with an infectiously lovable/dorky energy that almost subsumes everyone in his orbit. While the songs are not entirely memorable, what they lack in timelessness they make up for in cleverness.
As a deconstructionist riff on the entire musical genre, [title of show] is almost critic-resistant since it critiques itself, going so far as to include verbatim read reviews from the show’s opening. Your tolerance for the meta will determine how much you enjoy this show, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to be a fan of the musical theatre renaissance of the last 20 years. This Sunday, before you think of hitting Sidetrack to sing along to showtunes, consider stopping by Edgewater for some frisky fun fandom.
[title of show] continues through August 16th at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm. Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (800-838-3006) or online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at BrownPaperBox.org. (Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission)
*Telling a friend of the show’s premise, he replied simply “Ugh.” and went on to say that people who write about the writing process need to live more. It’s a fair criticism, and [title of show] is self-deprecating enough to tacitly admit that the creators spend too much time consuming other people’s ideas instead of getting out and living a life that would give them the experience to be dauntingly original.
Photos by C.B. Lindsey
behind the scenes
M. William Panek (director), T.J. Anderson (musical director), Justin Harner (assistant musical director), Sara Heymann (set, properties designer), Michael Montgomery (stage manager), Matt Sergot (box office manager), Charlie Sheets (graphic design), Daniel Spagnuolo (casting associate), Eric J. Vigo (lighting designer), Courtney Watters (costume coordinator), Damian Wille (production manager), C.B. Lindsey (photos)