How about: this show f#*%!&@ rocks

I meant to write this post so long ago, but with classes restarting and Next to Normal closing (*sob*) and me being lazy like an old French whore (Je suis whore), this review got left by the wayside. Suffice to say, [title of show] at the George Street Playhouse was so [title of show]. (If you didn't get either of those references, please do yourself a favor, get the cast recording, and listen to it. All will be revealed.) This small, intimate theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey was the perfect place to see [title of show]. Although I was first exposed to the show many moons ago thanks to its awesome cast album and the fabulous YouTube series "The [title of show] show," this was my first time seeing the show live, and, having wanted to see it since I was unable to during its lamentably brief Broadway run, it did not disappoint.

Now, I know some of you may be wondering, what is [title of show]? Well, to quote the epically awesome Susan Blackwell, the original Susan in the production, "[title of show] is a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical." If that seems at all meta-physical to you, you're on the right track. It's a bit hard to explain, but [title of show] essentially chronicles its own creation, from the first idea to the time it opened on Broadway. It documents the struggles its creators, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell (played in this production by Seth Rudetsky and Tyler Maynard, respectively), faced while trying to create an original musical. The show also features their co-stars in the show, Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell, portrayed by Lauren Kennedy and Susan Mosher (see how confusing this can get?) The show is littered with inside theater jokes and references, many of which were not grasped by the majority of the (elderly) audience Michelle and I were a part of. Did that stop us from laughing so hard we almost peed our pants? No, no it did not. [title of show] is smart theater, and even if Hunter Bell was robbed of a much deserved Tony Award for Best Book back in 2009 (losing to Billy Elliot, no less: what the hell?), the show is still as sharp as it was back when it opened in 2008. Sure, some of the references may have changed to make the show more relevant for the average theater goer and to help the show stay current, but that didn't make any of the musical numbers or dialog any less hilarious.

The cast was pure gold. Seth Rudetsky, perhaps best known for his Sirius radio show "Seth's Big Fat Broadway", Obsessed! with Seth Rudetsky, and his numerous deconstructions of showtunes, was hilariously dry and sarcastic as Jeff. He and Tyler Maynard were very convincing as friends trying to create an original musical, and Mr. Maynard was especially good playing the blank paper in the number "An Original Musical," which bemoans the difficulty of getting an original piece on Broadway while simultaneously poking fun at the numerous jukebox musicals and shows derived from books and movies that are so numerous on the Great White Way. Lauren Kennedy was wonderful, and she belted her face off on "A Way Back to Then," which has always been one of my favorite numbers from the show. Susan Mosher, though, stole the show for me. Her voice is uncannily similar to that of Susan Blackwell, her comedic timing was incredible, and even her physicality was similar to that of Ms. Blackwell's, right down to a nose that would certainly be able to take Heidi's in a cage match of noses (I mean absolutely no disrespect or offense towards either Ms. Blackwell's or Ms. Mosher's noses. The similarities between the two women are just simply uncanny.)  

I spent the entirety of the show with a smile on my face. If I wasn't laughing at the many jokes made at the expense of many other Broadway musicals, I was laughing at the witty dialog between the characters or their ridiculous antics. The entire cast had great chemistry together; it was easy to believe that they were a group of four friends who were struggling to write a musical. There were also a few musical numbers and pieces of dialog that were not on the cast recording, such as "Change It, Don't Change It" and "Awkward Photo Shoot," and it was a thrill to finally see the show as a complete product as opposed to just laughing every time I listened to the cast recording.

I think part of what makes [title of show] such an enjoyable and accessible piece of theater is that it is a simple, highly entertaining musical. It relies on catchy, witty songs and well-written dialog to tell the story. It doesn't need enormous sets or flashy lighting; it uses smart writing and great singing to tell its story and connect with the audience. Unlike some of the current shows on Broadway that rely on spectacle to fill the seats, [title of show] used simplicity to be successful, and I think that is an ethos other shows (and directors) would do well to take note of (yes, Julie Taymor, I'm talking to you. Is Spider-man ever going to open?)

Who says four chairs and a keyboard can't make a musical? Not this girl, for sure.


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