The plucky (title of show), which was a downtown sensation at the Vineyard Theatre over two years ago, has miraculously found its way to Broadway. The well crafted musical with only four performers and an electric piano was originally a surprise hit at the Fringe, where the little show flaunted its aspirations of taking their satire about nothing all the way to Broadway. That their dream seemed impossible added to the quirky charm of the comedy. But now here, part of the joke is missing along with the edge, and the musical feels decidedly small and self indulgent. Still you have to cheer the audacity of the show’s creators, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell.
Their whimsical homage to old show biz traditions is ever so cute with catchy self referential tunes by composer/lyricist Jeff Bowen. The book by Hunter Bell is little more than an extended skit, a backstage story about two guys attempting to write a musical about nothing – a take off on “The Jerry Seinfeld Show” without the depth. With little to say they hit upon the clever idea of writing down everything that happens and punctuate it with songs. They recruit two women (Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell), seasoned performers whose struggles are woven into the minutiae of the modest plot. The evening has its moments, but ultimately the tale’s narcissistic core is revealed as a shallow attempt for fame and fortune.
The up-tempo songs fare much better and are really quite good displaying a nice wistfulness. In “I Am Playing Me,” Heidi, a trooper with a fantastic set of lungs, is over the moon to find herself center stage instead of understudying Ursula in The Little Mermaid. In one of the stand outs, “Die, Vampire, Die,” Susan, a self described handsome woman with excellent comic timing, explains how she stifles her fears and self doubts, while encouraging the others to do the same. In “Change It Don’t Change” the four congratulate themselves for maintaining the artistic integrity of their silly show about nothing.
Directed by Michael Berresse the evening zips along briskly with minimal choreography. The four performers exalt in playing themselves and the nifty musical is a pleasant but easily forgotten diversion. I’m not sure the small show will have the stamina for Broadway, but there was much whistling and hooting at the performance we attended – so loud and intense, Gordin thought they might be plants. If you don’t know who Roma Torre is the inside jokes will go right over your head. Nonetheless (title of show) is here and at 90 minutes its creators remind us is approximately $1 a minute for the pleasure of their entertainment.
By Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published in Dans Papers
(title of show) opened at the Lyceum Theater, 149 West 45th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, on July 17, 2008. For tickets call 212-239-6200 or visit the box office.