Before Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen created the Broadway musical [title of show], they were two undersized and overmotivated New York nobodies working on Disney cruises and daytime TV dramas. Their big break, as this show about creating a show will reveal, came when they decided to enter the New York Musical Theatre festival with only three weeks before the deadline. The show goes by as quickly as those three weeks must have felt to the time-pressed duo; in 90 minutes, [title of show] bounces through the agony of placing the first word on a blank page to the dilemma of making art vs. making money to the glory of a glowing review in The New York Times.
Though its creators stress that they would rather their musical, now getting its regional premiere from TheatreWorks, be “nine people’s favorite thing” than “a hundred people’s ninth-favorite thing,” that doesn’t stop them from citing at least eight musicals that are better than [title of show]. But just because Les Miz is the love of your life doesn’t mean that [title of show] can’t be your best friend. The show’s beauty lies in its honest adoration of musical theater and its ability to remind audiences of just what they love about all of their favorites. Musical-theater geeks will delight in references ranging from Bernadette Peters to iconic New York hangout Tavern on the Green, which pop up throughout the show like kernels in the microwave.
[title of show] is earnest, smart and rather goofy. The show stumbles into dream sequences, and if you let your mind wander for a second, you may find yourself stranded in the middle of an extended metaphor about a monkey on a speedboat. But you won’t be lost for long, for the scenes are fast and dirty and punctuated by voicemail messages that nudge the narrative along.
The show comes together, appropriately, after the first draft is submitted to the festival. Songs like “Secondary Characters” and “A Way to Back Then” display the talents of Farah Alvin, an actress with Broadway credentials and a voice to match. Alvin plays Heidi, a chronic secondary character and one of two friends that Jeff and Hunter enlist to be in their musical. The other friend is named Susan, played by the hilarious Laura Jordan, a businesswoman and sometime actress who is both wacky and wry. Hunter, who wrote the book for the show, is played by Jamison Stern, a likeable actor but with lines that would be more at home in a studio with a laugh track. Ian Leonard gives an adorable performance as Jeff, the dryly funny composer of the show.
[title of show]
Runs through June 26 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts