Dan Jajewski and Trevor Bass shine as writers Jeff and Hunter.
Madison Theatre Guild opened the 2008 Broadway hit [title of show] at the Bartell Theatre this past Friday to a laughter-filled house. The performance was hilarious, from the “Untitled Opening Number” onward.
[title of show] is the musicalized true tale of two young men trying to write a musical in three weeks for the annual New York Musical Theatre Festival. The collaborators are out of ideas, and decide to write about their musical-writing process; the story follows their success as the show continues on to Off-Broadway and Broadway productions.
The candid script is what gives this play its charm. It is a commentary on the creative process, featuring silly banter as the characters pitch lines and ideas while they comment on the play’s material. More than once, characters make fun of the lines they just said, or question why they’re even in the scene in the first place. And the members of the ensemble do a wonderful job of making the inviting the audience into their world.
Dan Jajewski and Trevor Bass shine as writers Jeff and Hunter, alongside cast members Susan (Danielle Olstad) and Heidi (Mari Borowski). This relatively tiny musical cast provides impressive, solid performances throughout, always delightfully underscored by solo accompanist and music director Thomas J. Kasdorf (who plays the small role of Larry, the accompanist).
In a show about a show, there is always a risk of mixing the two plays — the real show and the meta-show — and confusing the audience. Several times I wasn’t sure whether or not the line I was hearing was supposed to be a joke or not. As a result, I felt uncomfortable that I wasn’t giving the actors the laughs they deserved.
[title of show] is chock-full of one-liners, but it seems like the actors are sometimes unsure about how to deliver these jokes. Is this a snappy line to a scene partner or an aside to the audience? Is this a joke within the play or about the play? The actors could use more directorial guidance to bring these jokes home.
As an avid theater-goer and practitioner, I’ll admit that I’m hard to impress when it comes to comedies, but I have to give this show credit for its undeniable silliness. Some of these jokes are so equally clever and stupid (if that’s even possible) that you can’t help but enjoy yourself. By the end of the production, I was nervous that I was laughing too loud. There simply are not many shows like [title of show], so bring a friend who loves to laugh and get ready to see something you’ve definitely never seen before.