Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Book by Hunter Bell
Tony Award Nominee – Best Book of a Musical
Obie Award – Best Book of a Music, Music & Lyrics and Direction/Choreography
You’re reading the official blurb, or short summary, of [title of show]. Blurb. That’s a funny word. We spent a lot of time on this blurb so please read the whole blurb. [title of show] is a musical about two nobodies named Hunter and Jeff who decide to write a completely original musical starring themselves and their attractive and talented ladyfriends, Susan and Heidi. Their musical, [title of show], gets into the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and becomes a hit. Then it gets an off-Broadway production at the Vineyard Theatre, and wins three Obie Awards! Then (drumroll if you’ve got a drum) it’s announced that their musical is going to Broadway (hooray!) and people start seeing this blurb everywhere! Fully intrigued, those people snatch up tickets and help make Hunter and Jeff’s life-long dream come true! And now we’re playing in Des Moines – cool – here ends the blurb.
Susan: Karla Kash
Heidi: Kellie Kramer
Jeff: Mark Maddy
Hunter: Colin Morgan
Director: Todd Buchacker
Music Director: Ben Hagen
Choreographer: David Decker
Costume Designer: Emily Ganfield
Lighting Designer: Ron Gilbert
Properties Designer: Joy Kripal
Hair/Wig Designer: Cindy Hummel
Sound Designer: Josh Jepson
Stage Manager: Drew Senn
Dramaturg: Kimberly Fitch
Apr 4, 2011 | by Michael Morain | The Des Moines Register
With just three weeks to slap together a new show for a theater festival, two self-described nobodies named Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell wrote a musical about . . . wait for it . . . two guys named Jeff and Hunter writing a musical. They lay out the premise early on, right after the opening number called “Untitled Opening Number.”
Jeff: “So, that means that what I’m saying right now could end up in the show?”
Hunter: “That’s right.”
The possibilities suddenly dawn on them.
Jeff: “So, I could say, ‘Wonder Woman for president!’ and that would get into our show?”
Why, yes. Yes it could. And it just did.
The real-life results of their work, called “[title of show],” hit Broadway three years ago and the Civic Center’s Stoner Theater this past weekend, in a cheeky local production by StageWest that runs through April 17 under the direction of Todd Buchacker. It may not “ask significant questions” or “get important points across,” as Jeff and Hunter hope it might, but it’s a pretty fun way to spend two hours.
So, there. Now that you know the basics, here’s the part of the review that rates how well the actors actually performed. Here’s where you read, for example, that the local actors Mark Maddy and Colin Morgan are perfect as brainiac Jeff and free-spirit Hunter, gifted with a breezy sort of stage presence that makes their back-and-forth banter seem perfectly natural (if, of course, it’s natural for banter to burst frequently into song). Their characters are loud and proud theater nerds — only the most fanatic Broadway fans will catch all their references — but they’re especially funny with broader material, like the hip-hop number Morgan sings about writer’s block, and their ongoing collection of drag-queen names plucked from everyday life. (Among them: Minnie Van Rental and Lady Footlocker.)
The guys get help from two supporting characters, played with hilarious sarcasm by Karla Kash and sunny charm by Kellie Kramer, who manage to steal even some of the scenes that weren’t written explicitly for them, like the second-act number called — what else? — “Montage Part 2: Secondary Characters.” And every so often, the accompanist Ben Hagen tosses out a line from his seat at the keyboard, a little surprised that he’s allowed to speak at all.
Now, if this review were to develop a little further, you’d learn that the actors are obviously enjoying themselves — and the audience can, too, thanks in part to David Decker’s deliberately cheesy choreography and Hagen’s music direction, which coaxes a more polished sound from the cast than such a wacky show even requires.
The review should also include a bit about the set, which wouldn’t take long in this case because there isn’t much but a few mismatched chairs and an answering machine, which plays random recorded messages between each scene.
It would probably help, too, to put the show in context, comparing it to other behind-the-scenes musicals like “The Drowsy Chaperone” or meta-movies like “Adaptation” or even self-referential TV shows like “The Office,” where actors often break character to talk directly to the camera. But even if the idea of writing a musical about its own creation isn’t exactly new, “[title of show]” is clever enough — and quirky enough — to keep things interesting.
And there should be kicker at the end, of course, where the review sums up everything with a little joke and one final nudge to go out and buy a ticket because you won’t be disappointed. That would be a great last sentence.
REVIEW: Nothing nameless about this dynamo! | By John Busbee | The Cultural Buzz
Fill in your own superlatives – StageWest’s current production is deserving. [title of show] brings a unique slant to the world of modern musical theatre with its edgy, in-the-moment approach and the flexible dynamics of a quartet of vibrant performers. Currently sweeping across America with its alluring story and music, [title of show] is StageWest’s latest offering to Central Iowa theatre-goers to ride the leading edge of that wave as this show makes its Iowa debut in the Stoner Theatre in the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines.
StageWest has a rock-solid reputation for bringing the newest, edgiest shows on which its culturally hungry patrons can feast. The masses will be sated with this quick-paced, lively show. With music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and book by Hunter Bell, this show’s concept is so straight forward as to leave many “I shoulda thought of that” exclamations in its wake. Why puzzle over grand themes for a musical, when documenting the creation of a musical becomes the musical itself?
[title of show] follows its own creation as an entry in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, as the author and composer/lyricist, partnered with their two actress friends, struggle during a brief, three-week development period leading up to the show’s production. This story line evolves in an appropriately minimalist set – platforms stage right, upstage center door, onstage piano and musician upstage left, a couple of chairs, a table and props – giving focus to the action and performers.
Director Todd Buchacker guides his intuitively attuned quartet through an energetic delivery of song and story. Mark Maddy and Colin Morgan play the show’s creators, Jeff and Hunter, while their actress counterparts, Susan and Heidi, are played by Karla Kash and Kellie Kramer. With occasional, delicious moments of interaction, grounded by his musical perfection as the show’s pianist, is Ben Hagen as Larry. Hagen also is the Musical Director, with lively choreography by the versatile David Decker. This is a cohesive creative team, and their synchronicity radiates on stage.
Maddy and Morgan bring strong singing voices and boundless energy to their roles, coupled with a creative bond which seems to reflect the real life counterparts they play. Both bring a focused strength to their songs and acting, beginning with their opening duet, “Two Nobodies in New York.” A favorite song, also by these two, is the clever “The Tony Award Song,” which introduces us to many of Broadway’s flops through a projection of Playbill covers.
Kash and Kramer are equally impressive, each bringing her unique talents and energies to her role. Kash positively glows through a vast array of facial expressiveness, powerful vocals and irresistible movement. In “Die, Vampire, Die,” Kash delivers an Act 1 closing number that reverberates long past that act’s blackout. Kramer brings a more poised persona, with an arrestingly rich showcase song, “A Way Back to Then.”
The second act spins beyond the New York Musical Theatre Festival, as the creators stretch for the Mecca of musical theatre: Broadway. Act 2 ratchets the action up to an even higher, frenetic level. [title of show] is filled with marvelous random acts of outrageous, delivering many a lusty, laugh-out-loud experience.
Let StageWest save you the expense of traveling to New York to see one of the latest hit musicals, [title of show]. Get your tickets now, as final performances of a show of this caliber usually sell out – don’t say I didn’t warn you!