[title of show]
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
July 13, 2008
[title of show] is funny, inventive, and—this surprised me—inspirational.
In 2004, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell decided to submit a show into the New York Musical Theatre Festival. However, they had a short deadline and no idea what they would write about. So they decided to write a musical about themselves writing a musical—a documentary of writing, rehearsing, and performing this piece in the festival. They joined up with actresses Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff and all of the dialogue is taken verbatim from the conversations the four had (with some interjections from keyboardist Larry Pressgrove).
[title of show] was not only a hit at NYMF, but it went on to have an off-Broadway, and now a Broadway, run. The play has been revised to allow for all of these new happy occurrences, and it serves as a living log of what this project and these people have gone through in order to make it to the Great White Way.
I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like [title of show] (the title comes from the first question on the NYMF application). It is part sit-com, part parody, part documentary, part traditional musical. It is sophomoric and deliberately low-budget and feels more like a college production than a Broadway one. Yet it is also kind of sophisticated, and contains more (obscure) theatre references than most anything I've seen, and has a really strong, uplifting message about believing in your dreams. There's not really much conflict, there's no love (at least not the romantic kind), and you know when it starts that they're going to get to Broadway. Despite this, or maybe because of this, it's still really engaging and the audience, at least when I went, was incredibly responsive and supportive of the actors, the play, and the underdog story it represents. This is a very unusual type of theatre and it definitely brings up the question: are they acting or are they just being themselves. Director Michael Berresse has created a very interesting mixture of the real and the blatantly theatrical. The story just appears to tell itself, which, in my book, is the mark of a strong director.
It is very exciting to me to have a show on Broadway about what it is like to "make it" in the theatre. A month ago I moved to New York City and started a theatre company with three friends. So a show detailing the true story of four friends who rise to Broadway with a show they created—well, I feel like I'm the target audience of that.
But this story doesn't just resonate with those in the theatre biz. It is ultimately a very encouraging story about how being brave and working really hard can allow you to attain your dreams. There's a song in the show that Blackwell sings called "Die Vampire, Die!" It's about how you can't let that voice inside your head, that vampire, tell you that you aren't good enough and that you won't make it. How if you met someone on the street and they told you these things, you wouldn't believe them, but because it's coming from you, you do tend to believe it—but that you really shouldn't. The song is pretty silly, but there is a gem of wisdom in there. And every song in this musical, to some degree, is about how we can achieve anything: we just have to keeping working and not get discouraged and maybe one day we'll end up on Broadway.