Monday, August 25, 2008

[title of show]

I watched this musical about producing a musical at the Lyceum last night, the same theater where I watched Patrick Stewart's Macbeth. [title of show] was wittily self-referential: the trials and triumph of four struggling actors (nobodies in New York, as one song puts it, allliteratively) in bringing their show to The Great White Way. A lot of insider jokes, which I didn't get, but there was enough in the clever lyrics and winsome acting to enjoy. 

The actors played themselves. So Jeff Bowen, the composer and lyricist, was the introspective composer and lyricist Jeff in the show. Hunter Bell was the flamboyant writer. Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff completed the quartet of actors. The gay guys were amusing, camping it up, but the women were charismatic on stage. Blackwell had impeccable comic timing, and a dark interiority. Blickenstaff held us enthralled when she sang the nostalgic "A Way Back to Then." 

The characters would have been more sympathetic if they had been more developed. The plot flapped hard to rise above a series of comedy sketches. What I valued most were the glimpses of an actor's lot in New York. The obsession with knowing the right people. The procrastination--playing Atari, watching porn--to avoid doing creative work that will likely be rejected. The conflict between doing soul-sapping but rent-paying work (Understudy in The Little Mermaid, anyone?) and committing to a worthwhile project that may never get produced. The anti-climax that comes after a successful run on off-Broadway, when one asks, what's next? 

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