By Abbie Gallagher
Hunter and Jeff are writing an original musical for the New York Musical Theatre Festival. They have three weeks to meet the deadline, and hold lofty dreams of making their mark on the musical world. With the help of their actress friends Susan and Heidi, the four succeed in writing their show about themselves while struggling with writer’s block, fear of success, fear of failure, insecurities and everyday life. The result is a one act musical consisting of “a piano and four ugly chairs.”
Title of Show is definitely a niche musical, and one I personally enjoy greatly. Full of in-jokes and references, it’s a love letter to theatre itself. The simplicity of the production values show the power of minimalism, and the fact that the writers played themselves in every production from the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Off-Broadway, Broadway and the national tour gives an interesting twist.
So it is with a heavy heart that I must say the production at The Newsagency was disappointing. Whether this was due to a short preparation period, or the fact that Happy Rainbow Friends Productions is still a new company finding their feet, this production felt more like a rehearsal than a closing night.
To be fair, there were some microphone/sound issues and other technical difficulties out of the performers’ control. But The Newsagency was probably not the best venue choice due to the seating arrangements and the tiny stage crowded with four performers, four chairs, the PA system and a grand piano. Projection and enunciation were huge problems meaning much of the clever dialogue was lost, and joke after joke didn’t land.
Additionally, the concept of Title of Show may be that the writers played themselves, but that in no way means that different actors can’t give their own spin or have to play the characters devoid of a personality. The four actors were all talented singers (and the accompanist never missed a beat on the piano), but the acting fell flat. The tone of the performances was laid-back nonchalance the entire time, which is fine in small doses but the audience needs variety in order to be engaged and maintain interest throughout the journey. This dragged the pace down and stripped away any sense of tension, stakes or objectives, resulting in key emotional moments having little impact. Great songs in the score like Die Vampire Die, Two Nobodies in New York or my personal favourite A Way Back to Then did not have the required impact, though they sounded nice. Secondary Characters had flawless harmonies but read more like a pub karaoke. It’s a shame, because with more time and perhaps experience as a company, this really could have been a good night out. The show certainly has it, and the team has it too, they just needed to deliver more to pack that punch.
Full credit to Happy Rainbow Friends Productions for staging a lesser-known piece, and also for staging Title of Show as a fundraiser for the Twenty10 charity. It’s just important to consider the full weight of a piece, and remember that a comedy isn’t necessarily just about making people laugh.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.