[title of show]
5 May 2010
Melbourne company Magnormos are presenting the first international production of the meta-hit [title of show]. With four chairs and a keyboard, this work has re-invigorated the idea of independent original Broadway musicals and given hope to countless 'nobodies', and the Australian production is guaranteed to make you fall in love with musical theatre all over again.
In [title of show], Hunter Bell (character and creator) says he is striving for something that makes people want to pay attention. And he found it. Hunter and fellow-nobody/friend Jeff Bowen decided to enter the inaugural New York Music Theatre Festival in 2004, but the application deadline was three weeks away. So they grabbed their friends Heidi and Susan and wrote a show about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical.
If you don't know the story, I don't want to ruin it for you. So get to Theatreworks for this can't-stop-smiling-as-you-watch-it production and see what can happen when artists trust that tiny voice inside of them that is kicking the shins of at the vampires of self-doubt.
[title of show] is self-referential – in a Judy and Micky meet Seinfeld at a meta-fiction book club way – but its freshness and original voice force it to leave self-indulgence behind. Not that the creators haven't indulged in a bit of self-gratification ... but it doesn't matter if you don't get the Aspects of Love joke or recognise the CATS ring tone or haven't even heard of most of the shows in the song about flop musicals – these are the bonus laughs for musical theatre buffs.
These creators indeed know and love musical theatre. They know it has moments of fluff and foggy dream sequences. They know the endless auditions, the factory-mentality of big shows and the countless performers who want someone to pay attention to them. And they love the quirks and high kicks, while understanding that it's substance, content and guts that sustain the great shows far more than tulle frocks and high Cs.
[title of show] is full of gorgeous fluff, but it also questions art and the quest for fame, exposes raw self-doubt and explores the consequences of success – and has a song about filling in forms! Is it any wonder I loved it?
Re-creating a Broadway success with a story firmly planted in New York culture could have been dangerous, but director, and Magnormos founder, Aaron Joyner has captured the joy and hope of the original show and injected it with a spirit that could keep it running for months. Shame they only have two weeks.
And the cast are as perfect as a cast can be. It's too easy to forget that [title of show] isn't about David Spencer (Jeff), Michael Lindner (Hunter), Lara Thew (Susan), Laura Fitzpatrick (Heidi) and Sophie Thomas (musical director/Mary). Make the most of seeing these folk on a small stage while you can. (David and Michael were recently in Priscilla and Michael is about to start rehearsals for Mary Poppins.)
If you sit and watch this show saying "why didn't I do that?" – well why don't you? If there's something in you screaming to get out, let it. Just please don't try and copy [title of show], because it'll never be this original again. Take some sage advice and know it's better to be nine people's favourite thing, rather than 100 people's ninth favourite thing.
NOTE: There's a show on MONDAY night for everyone who is performing in all the other shows on in town.
This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.