Written in 2004, the comic musical "[title of show]" is a reflection of these voyeuristic times we live in.
At the movies, we watch a re-creation of the founding of Facebook. On television, we see women undergoing face-lifts on a health channel, or the vapid "Jersey Shore" gang working out and hooking up on MTV.
'The Bachelor' about to start."
But Bell did pull himself away from that dating program, and the result was "[title of show]." In the musical we watch Bell and friend Jeff Bowen create a Broadway show, in fact the very show we're watching. I guess it was just a matter of time before even the stage turned to reality programs.
Luckily, the production of "[title of show]" onstage at the Parliament House's Footlight Theatre, makes the little story of this musical's creation a laugh-filled ode to creativity, friendship and growing up.
In real life, Bell and Bowen wrote the basic show in three weeks to meet the deadline for a New York City musical festival. Their friends, actresses Susan Blackwell and later Heidi Blickenstaff helped develop the show, and the four starred in the show at the festival, then during an off-Broadway run.
After a self-promotion campaign on YouTube and a video blog — another sign of the times, for sure — the show had a three-month Broadway run.
Now that we're all a little jaded by so-called "reality" entertainment, one wonders how much of the story has been exaggerated or undergone some dramatic enhancement, not that it really matters. In the show, Hunter asks if the show is too self-indulgent. Of course it is; that's the whole point.
And much of "[title of show]" is truly funny. There is Broadway name-dropping and slams on fellow musicals such as " Shrek" and "The Little Mermaid." And there are jokes about Times Square and a cell phone that rings with the opening riff of "Cats" to great effect.
But the deeper humor lies in the way the characters speak to each other, how they play off each other — just as friends do, yes, in real life.
Co-directors Kenny Howard and Michael Wanzie have assembled a top-notch cast. As Hunter, Kevin Kelly bursts with energy, raising an eyebrow here, delivering a witty putdown there. Rob A. Lott's Jeff looks as happy as a kid in a candy store. Melissa Mason brings a sweet perkiness to Heidi. And long-limbed Robyn Kelly is a sarcastic ball of neuroses, worried about her singing ability, full of deadpan asides.
Musical director John B. deHaas has a pleasingly laconic stage presence and strikes a good balance between the singers and his keyboard. He can't help that in the show's second half, the clever songs give way to less-interesting medleys and montages that advance the musical's tale more quickly but don't pack the laughs — or the melodies — of the earlier tunes.
And performing in the Footlight Theatre presents some challenges as doors whoosh open and thud shut, and the sounds of dance music invade the theater. The background noise is perhaps more problematic than usual, given that all the actors but Kelly have moments when they're a bit difficult to hear. And in this little, heartfelt show, you don't want to miss the next funny moment.
Matthew J. Palm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5038. Read his Orlando Theater Blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/theaterblog.
See for yourself
•What: Broadway musical "[title of show]" by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell
• When: 7: 30 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 9, 16 and 23; 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25.
• Where: Footlight Theater, Parliament House Resort, 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando
• Tickets: Saturdays: $14 in advance at http://www.WANZIE.com/boxoffice; $16 at the door. Oct. 25: $12 in advance; $14 at the door.
Theater review: '[title of show]' at Parliament House
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