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Review of [Title of Show] at Waterloo East Theatre

Title of Show CastIt’s a bit like a pub quiz team called ‘Anonymous’ – every team must have some name or other. [title of show], as it is properly called, with square brackets and all in lower case – this particular production’s programme even gets it wrong – is a name derived from a form for an arts festival, in which ‘Title of Show’ is to be filled in a box at the top of the said form. So, cleverly or cornily, they write in ‘[title of show]’. I used to do that sort of thing, though I was a prepubescent child back then. For instance, a relative might say to me, “Say goodbye to Phil,” and I would call out, “Goodbye to Phil!”

I do not mean to say that the show as a whole is immature in this way, although occasionally it borders on being trite. A previous series of the parody revue Forbidden Broadway bemoaned the sheer number of shows that fall into one of two categories: “It’s drama doing drama or a serious play!” This show is firmly in the first camp, and in its journey through writing, editing, producing and directing a show, is a good reminder of how much effort is required to make a successful production.

The analogy of an iceberg is sometimes used (not in the show, but more widely) to describe how a production comes about. A small visible percentage is what the audience sees when they come to the theatre, but there is a much larger percentage, unseen, that includes all the preparation, rehearsals, workshops, marketing and public relations, and so on, that is sometimes overlooked. This show, then, attempts to redress that imbalance somewhat. The excellent inclusion of musical director Oliver Rew in proceedings, supplying him with some dialogue, also subtly says something about the (albeit debatable) under-appreciation of the contribution of musical directors and musicians to musical theatre.

There’s a fearless exploration of the limitations of theatre as an art form. This is, in itself, nothing new, and dates at least as far back as Shakespeare’s plays. But the devil is in the detail, so to speak, and some very specific movements is dissected and discussed, with some hilarious observations about time and space. The style of humour is unsubtle; while mercifully short of being ‘in your face’, there is, nonetheless, more often than not, little left to the imagination. But occasionally a line or two is lost as the harmonies are not entirely pitch perfect throughout. Irregular but noticeable issues with projection should really have been ironed out by press night. But the strong script, even with a rather flimsy narrative, and a cast that is clearly enjoying themselves make up for it.

I think I would have liked to have seen a little more character development. In the relentless drive to keep on keeping on, getting the characters’ show to Broadway becomes all-consuming, and there’s not much spoken or sung about lessons learned along the way. A brief reference to Wicked in the second half made me think of ‘For Good’ from that show; there did not appear to be an equivalent reflective number here.

The strongest vocal delivery came from Chloe Hawkins as Heidi, and the whole cast shines in what Broadway calls the eleven o’clock number, ‘Nine People’s Favorite Thing’ (American show, y’see, so American spelling), which rightly makes plain the show-about- a-show’s emphasis on making good theatre as opposed to merely doing what is likely to generate the most commercial gain. I enjoyed the script being brought up-to- date, whilst being in line with the original’s multiple references to other shows and performers; alongside references to On The Town and the comedy duo Comden and Green, are more contemporary ones including Ashlee Simpson’s Broadway performances and even Sarah Harding’s very recent entry into musical theatre.

Very witty, and with hummable tunes, the show never takes itself too seriously. It inspires me not to take myself too seriously either.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Title of Show CastSR Productions presents… [Title of Show]. Nominated for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical. With Music & Lyrics by Jeff Bowen, Book by Hunter Bell.

[Title of Show] returns to London for a three week run at Waterloo East Theatre from 6th to 25th September 2016. Press Night Thursday 8th September 2016.

[Title of Show] has music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen & Hunter Bell. The musical received a Tony Nomination for the best book of a musical. [Title of show] began life in 2004 as an entry into New York’s Musical Theatre Festival. With three weeks to go before the submission deadline, and knee­ deep in balled ­up show ideas, the struggling writer-composers decided to write a musical about two struggling writer­composers trying to write a musical with the help of their two best friends. In short it’s a musical about two guys writing a musical with countless musical theatre references. It’s a show that feels like a rummage through the dressing­up box of Broadway history and is an inventive,
fresh musical that chronicles its own creation & the lives of these four characters as they strive to make their show a success.

Creatives:
Director – Will Keith
Musical Director – Daniel Jarvis
Assistant MD – Oliver Rew
Lighting Designer – Andy Hill
Producer – Jason Shand­Rodger
Co­-producer – Leon Hernandez

Cast:
Jeff – Daniel Mack Shand
Hunter ­Louie Westwood
Heidi – Chloe Hawkins
Susan – Malindi Freeman

Waterloo East Theatre
Brad St, London SE1 8TN
http://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/

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