A review of "," brought back for a short return engagement by Balagan Theatre, June 15-17, 2012.
If you’re young at heart and you love theater, especially musical theater, you have just three days to get to Erickson Theatre for Seattle’s professional premiere of “[title of show].” This is a sweet yet spicy musical produced by Balagan Theatre and Curly Stache Productions, and it’s about creating a show about creating a show.
Buried (not so deeply) in the script are numerous references to Broadway musicals, personalities and trivia. Those who know a lot about musical theater will find much to chuckle at here.
The Seattle production, directed by Jeff Orton with musical direction by Chris DiStefano, features Brian Lange, Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, Kate Jaeger and Ryan McCabe. The voices of the cast members blend beautifully, and the keyboard accompaniment by DiStefano is magical. The score demands enormous competence, and gives DiStefano an opportunity to show just how gifted he is.
Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell concocted this confection, about two New York guys obsessed with theater, in 2004. (That year, it was chosen for production in New York by the Musical Theatre Festival, and later went to Off-Broadway and Broadway stints.)
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The show concerns two guys who learn about a festival looking for new works, just three weeks before the deadline for entries. It doesn’t take much discussion for them to decide to compete for a spot.
To really test themselves, they pledge that their submission will be an original work, rather than a book or movie adaptation. And there lies one of the early in-jokes: Take a look at the shows that were nominated for Tonys this year, and note how many are adaptations or revivals. (It’s a trend that’s been going on for some time; one that many deplore.)
Because these young playwrights can’t come up with any plausible plot ideas, they set about creating a script based on their experience writing the script. To help the process along, they invite two female friends to join them. The show wins awards, goes to Broadway … and then comes to Seattle. The concept could be faulted as too self-referential, too precious, but in the era of reality TV, why not reality Broadway?
The staging here, as it was in New York, is simplicity itself. Just four chairs, each different, each moved about the stage in a choreography that reinforces the plot. And what is that plot? Despite the jokes and asides, the plot is at heart poignant. People in the theater long to be idolized, to bask in success. But even for those who achieve their dreams, the success rarely lasts.