Heartfelt musical comedy

summit daily news

Not many people would think their conversations – especially those completely revolving around trying to write a play – are interesting enough to make Broadway. But writer Hunter Bell and composer Jeff Bowen thought differently.

Together, they created “[title of show],” a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. Confusing? Yes, but only when put into words. On stage, the concept translates seamlessly.

The story begins with Jeff (Adam Estes) and Hunter (Andrew Tebo) talking on the phone about an upcoming theater festival. Playwrights are welcome to submit their work, but the deadline looms in three weeks, and Jeff and Hunter have no idea what they want to write. Yet, that doesn’t stop them. Within minutes, they decide to build a musical based on their everyday conversations about – you guessed it – their process of writing a musical.

Immediately, audience members find themselves watching the musical itself. Without getting all heady about the logistics of how they pull this off, trust me when I say “[title of show]” is extremely accessible and entertaining.

Jeff and Hunter’s charisma pull you into their zany anything-goes world. (The only stumbling block you may find involves the overt stereotyping of both Jeff and Hunter as gay men, and Hunter acting as a foul-mouthed, street-talking black man.)

Nevertheless, Jeff and Hunter are simply likeable characters. They believe in personal dreams and creative experimentation. They’re vulnerable, and they’re just darn funny. An early laugh comes in the second scene, when Jeff unceremoniously moves his chair from his “home” corner to the “park” in the middle of the stage. When Hunter insists he can’t just move a chair and start talking – rather he must signal a change of location for the audience, he ignores the rules. Meanwhile, he’s a stickler for grammar, interrupting and correcting Hunter’s casual speech.

As the men draw two female friends into their play, everyone finds deep satisfaction in the developing friendships and freedom of expression – where actors don’t have to fit the mold, because they are the mold.

But as the four players near their dreams of Broadway, integrity and loyalty come into question. Hunter and Jeff struggle with changing – or watering down – their original scenes, which came straight from their authentic personalities. And as they consider replacing their good friend with a known star, things become even stickier.

“[title of show]” not only provides a comedic escape, but also points to the importance of staying true to oneself, one’s dreams and one’s relational bonds.

The group of New York City actors (including Jennifer Lauren Brown as Susan and Brittany Jeffery as Heidi) brings the unusual production to life in a most satisfying way.

Oh, and for all you artists, writers and even entrepreneurs out there, one song in particular, “Die, Vampire, Die,” will change how you relate to that inner critic forever.

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