A thoroughly enjoyable take on this witty musical about making a musical
Reviewed by Adam Roberts, Fri., Oct. 28, 2011
[title of show]TexArts Kam & James Morris Theater,
2300 Lohmans Spur, Lakeway, 512/474-8497
Through Oct. 30
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.
Hell's Kitchen, N.Y. Home of the Actors Studio, the Actors' Temple, the Actors' Chapel, and ... well, countless other actorly establishments. Manhattan's West Side pocket has always been a hotbed of aspiring performers. But this neighborhood is not the exclusive domain of those who tread the boards. Contemporary Broadway folklore also loves to tell the tale of young, starry-eyed guys and gals who meet up at a Hell's Kitchen apartment, laptops poised for one goal: to write the Great White Way's next smash musical. This is the tale of [title of show].
It's a curious title to be sure, but with a purpose. Buddies Jeff and Hunter are embarking on the most daring of journeys: the mad dash to submit their fresh new musical to New York's next musical theatre festival. Those unfamiliar with the many stages (no pun intended) encountered on a musical's road to Broadway may be assured that the path is almost always winding and laden with pitfalls. New musicals are usually seen time and again in various stages of development, and one popular way to get prospective producers interested in a show is to enter it into a festival to be performed alongside other new musicals. These festivals are presented regularly in NYC, and it's into one of these prized showcases that Hunter and Jeff seek to enter their own labor of love. While filling out the submission form that will accompany their materials, they realize that they've not yet determined a title for their musical. On the line that requests the title of their show, the pair responds with just that: [title of show].
Joining Hunter (Scott Shipman) and Jeff (Jarret Mallon) are their friends Susan (Sarah Gay) and Heidi (Kara Bliss), who help them hone their vision. Pianist Larry (Austin Haller, who also serves as musical director for the TexARTS production) accompanies the meta show ("a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical") and says little until he's informed that his union has now allowed him to speak onstage. The actors – though perhaps slightly too mature in years for the show's characters – turn in tight, smooth performances with simple but slick and effective staging from director Robert M. Armitage. Each number is polished and well-executed, with special acknowledgement due to Haller, whose accompaniment is nuanced and hits each stylistic mark. It's a thoroughly enjoyable evening filled with song after song, and the intermissionless production ties up nicely in a quick 90 minutes.
If you go (and I suggest that you do), I feel it necessary to make one recommendation: Be sure to brush up on your Into the Woods beforehand. And Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With God. And pretty much every other musical in the American musical theatre canon. The book of [title of show] is based almost exclusively on incredibly witty references to both "household" and obscure musicals that musical theatre aficionados will find uproarious, but those who know little of Broadway literature and culture could feel somewhat at sea.