Theater Review: “(title of show)”
By Jennifer Ta
Aug. 30, 2010 2:02 a.m.
The very search for an idea, any idea, can be creative and entertaining in itself. For the musical “[title of show],” it takes this process of creativity and makes it the center of the show.
“[title of show]” is a musical about writing a musical. It documents the journey of two friends trying to write a musical in three weeks to enter it in the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
The cast consists of only five characters named Jeff, Hunter, Susan, Heidi and Larry. These characters are based on real people who were involved in writing and acting in the musical during its early run in the festival.
Much of the charm of the musical resides in the chemistry of the small cast. At the forefront, actors Jeffrey Landman (who plays Jeff) and Micah McCain (Hunter) believably play best friends, keeping the energy and humor alive until the very end of the show. McCain, in particular, should be commended for his ability to deliver the best one-liners of the show that could have easily sounded cheesy, but coming from him, were hilarious instead.
The real standout of the show, however, is Jennifer R. Blake, who plays Susan, the sassy friend who sings at night and works in the corporate world by day. Blake smoothly portrays the many facets of her character, from being immature and ditzy to being snobbish and mean. What Blake does well is that she still brings a likeable quality to her character, so she comes across as funny and adorable rather than annoying.
It also helps that Blake has an amazing voice, hitting the high notes with ease. It’s a shame that Blake was not able to showcase her voice more throughout the show, only having one strong solo number in “Die, Vampire, Die!” This song is also one of the best songs in the musical, which centers on killing our inner “vampire,” the voice we believe to be reason despite telling us that we’ll fail no matter what we do.
Meanwhile, actress Carey Peters plays Heidi, a woman who only receives the understudy roles in Broadway shows. Peters gives an adorable quality to Heidi’s character, making her bubbly and warm.
However, there are times during Peters’ solo numbers when she overemphasizes her voice, which makes her songs annoying to listen to. During the high notes, Peters’ voice ends up sounding throaty, taking away especially from the emotional sentimentality of her solo song “A Way Back to Then.”
Much of what makes the “[title of show]” unique is its post-modern self-awareness, such as when the characters pause to discuss how the scene would appear in the musical. However, the constant references to the musical within a musical become tiresome, taking away from the development of the plot and dragging down the scenes.
And while this self-referential quality does lead to some fun songs, such as “An Original Musical” and “Filling Out the Form,” it also creates a few excessive numbers. The transitional songs and scenes border on the ridiculous rather than the humorous, with all the actors running on stage, singing nonsensically about transitioning to the next scene.
Despite these flaws, “[title of show]'”s simplicity gives the musical its heart. There are no elaborate sets and props other than a bare stage with four chairs and a keyboard (played by Gregory Nabours as the keyboardist Larry), so the audience is able to focus on the story and music rather than be awed by the stage and equipment.
The simple, emotional songs are also the ones that stick with the audience well after the curtain falls. The subjects of these songs include the doubts we have about our lives and the importance of creating something good, rather than something popular.
In the end, “[title of show]” may be funny and silly, causing you to laugh and momentarily forget about your everyday troubles. But it’s also warm and comforting, making you believe that once you do have to enter the real world and think about your troubles again, you’ll be able to handle it if you can just get the courage to kill that “vampire” and believe in yourself.