'[title of show]' tackles creativity head on
It's often the laziest of lazy exercises: If a columnist doesn't know what to write on and has a looming deadline, they'll put together an "I don't know what to write about" theme column. Endless literary novels have been written about the task of writing a novel (including more than a handful of Stephen King tomes). Examples in other media can be found as well.
No matter the poor pedigree however, [title of show]-- a musical about the process of making a musical about making a musical--is plenty of fun, with strong insights into the creative process mixed with lots of insider jokes about the business of Broadway, the craft of acting, and musical theater flops. The show, the latest production from Urban Samurai, starts out quick, reaches a climax about two-thirds through, and then struggles up until the finale. Kind of like the making of a show.
The piece centers on the efforts of Jeff and Hunter (show creators Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, here played by Adam Qualls and Max Wojtanowicz) to prepare a brand-new piece for an upcoming musical theater festival in less than a month. They enlist a couple of friends, Susan and Heidi (Emily Jabas and Kecia Rehkamp), to bring the idea to life. The first part of the show follows that original creation, from brainstorming sessions to fighting the self-doubt that can strike any creative endeavor. There is a real sense of joy when they are able to send their lark off for submission into the festival, which only increases when they get in and get to showcase their work for audiences.
After that, the show--like real life--takes a crazy trajectory. The production gathers steam, leading to an Off-Broadway run and talks of moving to Broadway. While that has always been the secret dream of all of the participants, the pressure of molding the show for a bigger venue begins to wear their passion down.
Keeping with the super-meta structure, the musical has been updated each step of the way. Many of the later tunes don't have the same impact as the early ones, like "Monkeys and Playbills" (about letting your imagination go) and "Die, Vampire, Die" (about "killing" the external and internal demons that hinder creativity). It does right itself before the end, leading to a moving finale.
The Urban Samurai company sings and performs the music with great aplomb, slipping easily into the skins of the "real" people that make up the show. Their energy and affection is infectious, letting the humor come out--even if some of the references are over the head of all but the biggest Broadway nerds.
[title of show] runs through April 30.
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