“[title of show]” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ February 22, 2010


”[title of show]”
Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

As a musical theater lover, I wondered if Arizona Theatre Company’s regional debut of “[title of show],” a piece about two New York writers creating their first musical, would appeal to Valley theatergoers. It’s crammed with obscure musical theater references including titles of long forgotten musical failures. It’s loaded with insider tricks used to write musicals, and it’s full of jokes best understood by Broadway musical denizens.

I shouldn’t have worried. A large and appreciative opening night audience guffawed lustily throughout this marvelously entertaining show. The show’s success is also attributable to David Ira Goldstein’s clever and energized staging and a cast who delivers the show’s delicious comedy with irreverent mockery while adding subtle jabs and hysterical jests to the already funny affair.

“[title of show]” is the brainchild of two out-of-work New York musical theater performers, Jeff Bowen, who penned the catchy and slyly witty songs, and book author Hunter Bell who had the idea of creating a show about two guys creating a musical. They sought the help and support of two female friends as they translated chats about experiences in and around the theater to craft the show.

For those of us who know the intimate details of Broadway musicals, there are some especially pointed barbs but the show is so thoughtfully written that those who don’t know the exhaustive historical detail will still enjoy the witty and droll spoofing. The show is also never condescending but it does have its share of raunchy language.

The songs provide character insight, cajole creating musicals, and have fun with the trials and tribulations of producing “[title of show]” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, off-Broadway, and finally on Broadway in 2008.

Three of the performers, Sal Sabella, Lauren Lebowitz, and Kelly McCormick, have appeared in recent ATC musical theater successes, while Stanley Bahorek makes his ATC debut. Sabella plays the serious and harder working Jeff, while Bahorek essays the more relaxed but still dedicated Hunter. McCormick is Heidi, the one with actual Broadway credits, and Lebowitz is Susan, who yearns to be a full-time theater performer but maintains a boring day job until her big break comes. They all sing, in solos and in ensembles, with soaring musical strength as they jab and stab the humor with amazing ease, impeccable comic timing, and carefree mocking abandon.

“[title of show]” glistens with comic delight as it slams musical theater but ultimately worships the genre. “[title of show]” continues through March 7. For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or go online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A