by Marcus Kaye-
What started as a competitive entrée in the New York Musical Theatre Festival and ended with successful runs both on and off-Broadway and a Tony nomination for Best Book in 2009, [title of show] has finally arrived at the Celebration Theatre for its Los Angeles premiere.
And the Celebration Theatre, with its commitment to presenting innovative gay theatre, is the perfect home for this enjoyable ride through the creative process.
Jeffrey Landman and Micah McCain shine as Jeff and Hunter, a composer and writer living in the heart of New York City. They’re talented, ambitious, funny, gay. The last of which is the source of most of the jokes in the piece. Celebration Theatre is a great venue for this show, which provides a glimpse at the lives of two gay men writing a musical in New York City.
The show is less about these men being gay, though, and more about the creative journey these two artists take. From genesis to passion, to the inevitable break down, [title of show] has it all. This musical is for anyone who has ever set out to create, and under the direction of Michael A. Shepperd, the themes of perseverance, drive and not letting any “vampires” stand between the artist and their craft are brilliantly preserved.
The musical works so well because of how much the entire cast and crew attaches to the source material. Their passion for the project shows through in every element. It has to be because they are these characters. This show is relevant to everyone involved, but it doesn’t stop there. It is relevant to the audience because no matter who you are, you can look at these four actors and see yourself.
[title of show] starts three weeks before the deadline of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, where Jeff (Landman) and Hunter (McCain) decide to write a musical. Hard pressed for time- and a plot- the two decide to document their writing of a musical into the musical itself. The final product is [title of show], making the entire thing a ridiculously fun, self-aware cycle.
Jeffrey Landman is the straight man to McCain’s flamboyant Hunter, but that’s not saying that Landman is without his own comedy chops. The chemistry between the two is wonderfully natural, allowing them both to show off while bouncing off one another. They’re both vocally gifted, making everyone (no matter how ridiculous) enjoyable. Two more fitting men couldn’t have been found to carry on Jeff and Hunter’s charisma and charm.
Needing friends to help pull off their musical, Jeff and Hunter bring in Heidi and Susan. Carey Peters and Jennifer R. Blake as Heidi and Susan, respectively, match the men’s skill ounce for ounce. Blake’s comedic ability is rivaled only by Peter’s powerhouse voice – making their duets enjoyable highlights of the musical.
Despite Susan’s claims that she can’t sing, Blake doesn’t seem to have that problem. Blake’s voice and those of her co-stars blend beautifully and –aside from those they’re written to miss- the cast sounds fantastic under the musical direction of Gregory Nabours (who resides on stage as the pianist, Larry, and is given the opportunity to showcase his own comedic charm).
The stage is set simply 4 chairs and keyboard – just as the book specifies. It is with the lighting that this musical becomes a show. Lighting designer Matthew Denman flourishes, and helps the audience to understand when we’re in the play and when we’re in the play within the play and so on and so forth. The pace is brisk, with scenes connected by voicemails Hunter and Jeff leave each other.
The cast is talented, the music is catchy, the show is relevant. [title of show] isn’t to be missed.
[title of show] is performed at Celebration Theatre on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday matinees at 3 pm. The show opened on Friday, July 16 and will run through Sunday, September 5, 2010.
Celebration Theatre is located at 7051 B Santa Monica Blvd. (1/2 block east of La Brea Blvd.) in Hollywood, 90038.
Ticket prices: $35.00 for opening night, and $30.00 for all other performances.
Reservations online at www.celebrationtheatre.com or by phone at (323) 957-1884.