Theater Review: [title of show]
Richmond Triangle Players’ 2010-2011 season comes to a hilarious close with their latest production, [title of show]. For those who follow YouTube sitcoms – such as Jack In A Box, or The Battery’s Down – you’ll feverishly want to watch the [title of show] series after seeing RTP’s highly comical take on Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell’s Broadway musical comedy for an extra helping of laughs.
Bowen and Bell add to the list of playwrights and lyricists who have transformed unconventional subject matter into popular Broadway material. This show is about these two writing a musical about themselves writing a musical. Frantically trying to come up with an entry into a musical festival, Jeff and Hunter rummage through old playbills to find the inspiration that will make their script successful on the Great White Way. Will it be the 1951 Broadway flop Bagels and Yok or 1954’s The Golden Apple that ultimately helps them to overcome their writer’s block?
None of these provide what they are looking for, so instead they recruit their two friends Heidi and Susan to brainstorm ideas for their show. Even when the latter half of the script makes satiric jibes at Broadway’s commercial norms and proceeds more like a structured, modern day musical, Director Justin Amellio’s ability to punch the nonsensical, improvisational humor out the first few musical numbers makes this production feel more at home at Chicago’s The Second City.
A cast of four actors accompanies his directorial interpretation with unflinching fun and entertaining chemistry. Hunter (portrayed by VCU student Daniel Cimo) pushes Jeff (played skillfully by Chris Hester) to think outside of the box for an original musical in “An Original Musical” with funny, urban sassiness while Jeff grapples with his creative self-doubt in “Monkeys and Playbills.” (Hester gets a moment to show his talents at improv when the lights went out on opening night and his witty response along the lines of “That’s what you get for being in a low rent theater” was hysterical.)
Lanaya Burnette’s (previously seen in RTP’s This Beautiful City) characterization as an insecure corporate whore seemed at first incongruous among her trio of laid-back friends, but you grow to sympathize with her character – Susan – after Burnette shines in the more introspective moments of “What Kind Of Girl Is She?” when she sizes up fellow female secondary character, Heidi. The musical star of this production is Georgia Rogers Farmer as Heidi with out a doubt, and, boy, she is a hoot too! She mostly gets understudy gigs but her casting directors haven’t heard her “A Way Back To Then” because her vocal prowess left me pleasantly stunned.
Musical Director Timothy Brewster injects the script’s humor effortlessly into this ensemble’s impressive vocals song after song. Set Designer David Allan Ballas creates a functional apartment one would expect to see a “part-time-actor-need-to-work-full-time-as-a-waiter” sublet. With the unexpected power outage, Stage Manager Dexter Ramey knows the true meaning of the show must go on and I’m glad he did cause I wasn’t ready to leave my seat at curtain call.
“[title of show]” runs through June 4, 2011 at Richmond Triangle Players. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.rtriangle.org. Photo by John Maclellan.
Matthew Miller is the former arts editor and chief theater critic for GAYRVA.com. A Chicago native, he holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently resides in Richmond, VA and is a member of the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Matthew Miller on Twitter twitter.com/matthewkmiller
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