Like TV’s “Seinfeld,” [title of show] is a show, to a degree, about the mundane. [title of show] is a musical about four friends creating a musical – the one the audience sees. Along the way, they face their insecurities, their conflicts with each other, and try to answer the question: Is there a right way to make art? [title of show] features music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, a book by Hunter Bell and impressive co-direction by the show’s cast: Bobby Libby, John Loughney, Katie McManus and Jennifer Redford.
It’s fun to watch the creative process in general and with this cast of characters, in particular. Friends Jeff (Libby) and Hunter (Loughney) were procrastinating New York City creatives, stuck in office jobs, in search of inspiration for their next project. The three-week deadline of a musical festival left Jeff, a composer, and Hunter, a musical book writer, scrambling for inspiration, which they found by recording their conversations, thoughts, voicemails and even Broadway show titles and fashioning them all into a musical.
You’ll love the vocals in this show, which not only sound marvelous but bring emotional depth to the angst of creation. These vocals were especially evident in “Untitled Opening Number,” sung by the company. Libby, recently seen in NextStop’s Godspell and Loughney, who earned a Helen Hayes Nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Keegan Theatre’s The Full Monty, sang powerfully in “Two Nobodies in New York.”
I loved the edgy attitude and the vocals Loughney brought to his role as Blank Paper in the song, “An Original Musical.” The Blank Paper costume was unforgettable thanks to Co-Properties Designers John “J.C.” Cincioni, Jr., and Kristin Hessenauer.
McManus’ Country-and-Western style vocals punctuated “Monkeys and Playbills,” a song that chronicled Jeff and Hunter creating their musical’s plot out of titles of Broadway shows. Lynn Joslin’s lighting design included projection of those titles on the upstage wall of NextStop’s black box stage.
“What Kind of Girl is She?” was a wonderful duet by McManus, a Helen Hayes Outstanding Lead Actress nominee for NextStop’s City of Angels, and Redford, a WATCH award winner for Gypsy. The song related the rivalry between Heidi and Susan, the cast of Jeff and Hunter’s musical. The insecurities that creative people feel was expressed in “Die, Vampire, Die!” McManus and Redford dueted again in “Montage Part 2: Secondary Characters.”
“Change It, Don’t Change It/Awkward Photo Shoot,” sung by the Company, communicated a great deal of drama as the characters faced the pitfalls of popularity and success. The Company’s “Nine People’s Favorite Thing,” which conveyed the sentiment of a preference to be “nine people’s favorite thing, rather than one hundred people’s ninth favorite thing,” delivered a powerful message.
Musical Director Elisa Rosman provided crisp electric-piano playing throughout as a character named Larry. The sum of the cast’s directorial efforts equaled a spectacular evening of musical theater that should not be missed.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
[title of show] plays through January 27, 2019, at the NextStop Theatre Company – 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.