Thursday, January 19, 2017

Connecticut Theater Review: [title of show] -- Playhouse on Park

Peej Mele, Miles Jacoby, Ashley Brooke, Amanda Forker, Austin Cook. Photo: Meredith Atkinson.

[title of show]
Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Book by Hunter Bell
Directed by David Edwards
Through Jan. 29
Playhouse on Park

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About? 
It's about two guys writing a musical about writing a musical. It's a fun, quirky look into the creative minds of composer and lyricist Jeff Bowen (Miles Jacoby) and book writing partner Hunter Bell (Peej Mele) who scheme to come up with an original musical to submit in three weeks to the NY Musical Theater Festival. They solicit the help of friends Heidi (Amanda Forker), who keeps landing the unsatisfying role of understudy on Broadway and Susan (Ashley Brooke), who focuses on a good-paying day job when she fears her voice isn't good enough for the Great White Way. Together they collaborate on what becomes a test for all of their skills. All of their conversations about what the musical should be like, what kinds of songs should be included and even dream sequences and a number of voice mail messages all merge to become the musical itself. It's a fun show, even if you don't catch all of the inside jokes, about the angst of the creative process.

What Are the Highlights?
Jacoby, the lone Equity member of the cast, gives a strong performance and is a good counter to the over-the-top portrayal of Bell as a sort of neurotic gay guy. Austin Cook plays Larry, the group's pianist friend, who provides the only accompaniment on stage for the show's songs that chronicle the group's experience with titles like "Two Nobodies in New York," "I am Playing Me," "Filling Out the Form" and "Nine People's Favorite Thing."

What Are the Lowlights?
The dialogue doesn't snap and the show is missing the familiar repartee that made the show a hit on Broadway. As a result the pace drags and the show clocks in about 1:45 instead of the expected hour and  a half without intermission.

More Information: [title of show] runs through Jan. 29 at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford. Tickets are $40-$50: www.playhouseonpark.org; 860-523-5900 x10.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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