Broadway Features and Reviews
[Title of Show]: A Broadway Review
By Leora Kanner, Broadway Magazine
The simplicity and brilliance of the title, [title of a show] is extremely representative of the show itself. The premise is as follows: two gay men (Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell), a writer and a composer, get together to submit a show to a theater festival along with two actress friends (Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff). The four players create a show about the process of creating the very show that you are watching. Sound confusing? This show takes the audience on a journey through the creative process that ends in an actual Broadway musical; however, this show is unlike anything before because it isn't merely "about" the process, it is the process itself. What ensues is a chaotic, sometimes confusing, hilarious, and unique performance, quite unlike anything seen on Broadway before (but that is exactly the point).
In an effort to create something entirely innovative, the show's creators make fun of the genre they themselves are working with. The opening song is the "classic" opener, with references to key changes and ending chords. The simulated and satirized dance moves allow the actors to be interesting while at the same time critical of the very art they are attempting to create. The actors reference "their own lines" and what will actually appear in the "eventual" show, throughout the production. They discuss both themselves in the future play, as well as act out the play as it occurs. The dialogue is completely realistic, perhaps because it is in fact much of the dialogue actually spoken by the creators. The jokes are raw, and real, and are hilarious in their brute honesty. During many parts of the show, the audience erupted in fits of laughter more usually found in a stand up comic performance than a Broadway theater. Some parts of the show are bizarre, like a song about monkeys; however, the point of such nonsense is to prove that "nothing is a waste, even if its nuts" in the creative process.
One of the most endearing parts of [title of a show] comes out of its method. Because the people onstage are in fact the people they are meant to be playing, their realism is undeniable. The audience inevitably falls in love with the characters because of their human quirks and personalities. Due to the fact that the actual creators of the show are the ones performing it, the audience truly begins to care about them as real people; this type of empathy is hard to capture with actors in a typical Broadway show. Some of the more serious moments of the show, including when one character sings about the "vampire of despair" who causes people to lose sight of their creativity, cuts right to the heart. No humor here; the audience can literally feel the pain of the actress, and the despair that many artists feel in the process of creating their masterpieces.
[Title of a Show] does take a slower turn about half way through, when the four players begin the process of moving the show from the festival, to off-Broadway, to Broadway (the same way it occurred in the real world…fascinating isn't it?) [Title of a show] has undergone three rewrites, each a documentation of the process as it is occurring. As the show gets more heated and the actors begin to fight over the commercialization of the musical, the jokes get fewer and the show became slightly lengthy. However, perhaps that is exactly what the show meant to do. The real business of Broadway is a tough one, showing the performers in the rough show business world. The toll Broadway can take on creativity and art became crystal clear in its true-to-life documentation in the script.
One challenge of the show is its constant obscure references that only those in the industry could understand. Much of the show is way above the heads of the average Broadway theatergoer. Additionally, the small scale of the production, pioneering style, and lack of special effects, costuming, and huge dance numbers, makes this completely un-relatable for much of the popular audience. But having been an original Off-Broadway piece and attempting to keep its small-scale feel, this show doesn't really care. The actors even discuss the "obscure references" but conclude that they would rather be loved by "nine people" then have hundred peoples love this as their "ninth favorite show."
Although the show attempts to be "wholly" original, it does fall prey to some classic cliché themes like "art for arts sake" and urging us not to sell out. However, these themes are necessary for us to understand why exactly these exceptional artists created this show in the first place: to showcase their talents and their love for theater. So while the show is not perfect, neither is the world of Broadway. No show better captures what it actually means to create a musical, and no set of four actors better find their ways into the hearts of their audience.
[End of review.]
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