Sunday, June 5, 2011
[title of show]: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ !
Holy Ioncesco, Theater Man, talk about a bolt from the blue. When Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen first conceived of [title of show] in order to have something to submit to a new musicals contest in New York, they had no ideas and few expectations. When they finished three weeks later and turned it in, they had written nothing but their own story: a 90 minute show with four actors, a piano player, no scene changes, no costume changes and no production values, about two guys writing a show to submit to a contest. The show's title refers to the fact that they had to put something on the line on the contest submission form where it said [title of show], so that's what they called it.
What did they get? An impossibly wonderful, heart-filled romp through the creative process, with a totally unique presentation and song after song that either crack your funny bone in half or give you shivers of pleasure, and usually both at the same time.
Five Stars! Do you hear that, Jersey Boys? We love love love this show, from the opener "Two Nobodies in New York" to the closer "Nine People's Favorite Thing" with the chorus: "I'd Rather Be Nine People's Favorite Thing than a Hundred People's Ninth Favorite Thing."
What an ensemble cast. Who is our favorite? Probably the 'Hunter' character, played with depth and brilliance by Jamison Stern, but then again Ian Leonard (his co-writer Jeff) is refreshing and wonderful too. Each of the two women: Laura Jordan (Susan), the wisecracking downtown gal and Farah Alvin (Heidi), the delightful and big-voiced uptown gal have their own moments to bring down the house. Together, the four actors sound like the vocal group from your favorite dream.
Yes, there's a dream sequence. And a song about killing those parts of you that keep you down ("Die, Vampire, Die!") and a great one about the two girls wanting their moment in the sun ("Secondary Characters") and a terrific one ("Change it, Don't Change it") about how once you have a little success everyone wants to throw their two cents in.
Perhaps Bell and Bowen didn't realize it, but they have essentially written a primer, a Musical Theater for Idiots book. The summary of that book would be: keep it simple and on point, write fantastic, simple songs with plenty of room for terrific singers to sing them and make the audience love you, root for you, cheer for your success and feel, when it comes, like its their success too.
How DO you do that? On Opening Night the audience stood and cheered for five solid minutes. The four actors standing on the edge of the stage had no idea what to do with this much applause. Afterwards, Ian Leonard told us "I figured this may never happen again so I thought I'd just stand there and take it all in." It's the real deal, folks. You can't buy the book so hurry down to Mountain View and see this show.
RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ !
The San Francisco Theater Blog Award Division may have had vampires steal its grinch filter, but it awards [title of show] FIVE STARS! There is no higher rating! Some may not agree, but The San Francisco Theater Blog would rather be nine people's favorite source for theater reviews than a hundred people's ninth favorite source for theater reviews.
[title of Show]
Mountain View Center for Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through June 26
Photo Credits: Tracy Martin and Mark Kitaoka