Tuesday, July 22, 2008

[title of show]

What starts out as a funny, creative show runs out of steam halfway through and devolves into profanity and vulgar attempts at humor. Too bad writers Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell couldn’t sustain the gimmick because I really thought they had something clever going for awhile.

The gimmick is two guys, Bowen and Bell who play themselves, who want to enter a musical theatre festival, but don’t have a show to submit so they make up one as they go along with the help of their friends Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, who also play themselves. There’s a lot of gay humor, some of which I missed, and a great deal of insider theatre references, of which I may have missed a bit too. The title comes from the first line of the application, which they decide makes as good a name as any. I did like some of the ideas they had for other titles, my favorite being Your Arms Too Short to Write This Show. (If that doesn’t mean anything to you then you’ll probably miss much of the inside humor -- and you might even think I forgot the apostrophe in Arms.)

[title of show] debuted in 2004 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and enjoyed an extended Off-Broadway run at The Vineyard Theatre in 2006. Now it‘s on Broadway, with that journey worked into the plot. The set is basically four odd chairs and the onstage keyboardist, Larry Pressgrove, who is the show’s musical director.

One of the insider names that popped out at me was Mary Stout, with a line about her getting hit by a hot dog cart. While Mary Stout is a veteran performer, she is not well-known enough that the average person in the audience will recognize her name. I did because she sang for us twice at Broadway Blessing and she lives on my street. I didn’t know she had gotten hit by a hot dog cart, but now many people will know.

Even though the show is only 90 minutes (it felt longer), the writing in the second half, which deals with the possible changes to be made for the Broadway run, sounds like material dreamed up to fill time rather than original writing. I did laugh when they discussed substituting the name Al Roker for Mary Stout because it would have more audience recognition. For reasons unfathomable to me, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization has acquired the stock and amateur rights to the show.

Between the Off-Broadway run and the waiting and hoping to move to Broadway, the creators kept the show alive through the internet series, "The [title of show] Show," which is available for viewing by visiting www.titleofshow.com/toscasts.htm.

[title of show] is at the Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St. For more information visit www.titleofshow.com.

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