4/24/2021 [title of show] BroadwayHD / London Coliseum
[title of review]
This is the first sentence of my review.
The first paragraph of my review will acknowledge my history with this show, having designed lights for (in my very biased opinion) the truly marvelous 2018 production at Marietta Theatre Co. I went so far as to also build a PowerPoint slideshow for the “Monkeys and Playbills” number featuring images of ALL the shows name-dropped in that number. I’ll be glad to share it with anyone who asks. Please ask!
That being said. this review will drop all pretense of objectivity and allow me to come right out and say I loved love love this musical and the London Coliseum production currently available for on-demand viewing at BroadwayHD, despite the British actors playing these quintessentially American characters.
This is the part of the review where I describe the show, blatantly plagiarized my 2011 review of an Oglethorpe University staging. [title of show] is a metamusical by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell (“I never metamusical I didn’t like”) about two guys named Jeff and Hunter writing a musical about two guys named Jeff and Hunter writing a musical. It is small, hilariously funny, and filled to the brim with obscure musical allusions that make geeks like myself positively moist with glee (Yes, I know who Mary Stout is and – digression # 2 -- when will WENN be available for streaming and purchase?).
There are tons of “meta” moments to treasure. Just to cite some of my favorites:
“A D D D D F# A are the first notes of the show”
“If the completed script is in that envelope, why are we still talking?”
“Do we have to name the characters ‘Jeff’ and ‘Hunter?’” “Well, it’s a lot better than [insert actor’s real name here]!”
“If people are going to spend a dollar a minute to see us, we just have to make every minute burst with energy and excitement.” (Followed by a silent moment as Jeff and Hunter write in their note-pads)
“We need to get out of this scene – it’s gone on far too long.”
“This is the last note of the show.”
It’s all done in a rehearsal studio with a barre, a wall filled with post-it notes, four actors, and a keyboard player. It is simply video’d, with occasional dips into fish-eye distortion, either out of a desire for conceptual surrealism, or because it’s a small space and it’s the only way to get all four actors on camera. For the record, all four give wildly vibrant and energetic performances, creating characters that sell the show, despite their obvious Britishness.
I’ve been a fan of the score for many a year now, and the cast made all the songs work. I especially liked how they attacked “Two Nobodies in New York,” “Die, Vampire, Die,” and, my personal favorite, “Nine People’s Favorite Thing.” And Lucie Jones’ performance of “A Way Back to Then” is shake-the-rafters incredible, the best performance of this song I’ve seen (or heard) in many a year.
Now, this is the paragraph in which I (furtherly-er) praise the cast and production team. Marc Elliott (Jeff), Tyrone Huntley (Hunter), the aforementioned Lucie Jones (Heidi), and Jenna Russell (Susan) are all wonderful and charismatic. Yes, Ms. Russell’s American accent lapses a few times when it shouldn’t, but she creates such a vivid character, it comes across as more a character eccentricity than an actress-lapse. And the whole rehearsal room concept (I presume from director Josh Seymour) fits the script like a well-chalked glove.
Now, this is how I’ll start the last paragraph of my review. I will have to end it by mentioning that I really need to get out of this review, as it’s been going on for far too long, and I don’t want to spill over onto a second MS Word Page.
-- Brad Rudy ( @bk_rudy #BroadwayHD #[title_of_show] #LondonColiseum)
Oddly enough, one of my cast-praising comments for the 2011 Oglethorpe production stated they “were all wonderful and show a promising future in musical comedy.” Of that cast, both Kyle Brumley and Jessica de Maria fulfilled that promise and have given us more than a few incredible performances in the ten years since.