NEWSDAY [TITLE OF SHOW] REVIEW
Review: [Title of Show]
by Linda Winer
"Title of show," which opened on Broadway last night after four years of writing and waiting, may be the ultimate let's-put-on-a-show musical.
Created and performed by two self-described "nobodies in New York," the first entry of the new season is a clever and often adorable little invention about writing a musical about two nobodies writing a musical while performing the musical. Got that?
The title is what composer Jeff Bowen and author Hunter Bell - both show-biz obsessives - called this meta-project while filling out the application form for the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004. The men and their two self-described "secondary characters" - Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell - were a hit at the festival and Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in 2006.
Their inside-baseball humor, their sardonic attitude and their Cinderella story arrive at the creators' mainstream fantasy fulfillment with a passionate fan base, nurtured on the Internet by a come-on-along YouTube series about the show.
Everyone in Michael Berresse's production is quick and charming. The setup - four mismatched chairs, street clothes and a grimy rehearsal room - has a prepossessing anti-spectacle ordinariness. The show-tune pastiche - think Laura Nyro as interpreted by William Finn - is accompanied by the amusing Larry Pressgrove on a lone keyboard.
How I wish I could love the show. I wish I didn't feel that I was being manipulated by long-struggling talented people on a guilt trip. Most of all, considering the risk, I wish the offbeat and low-budget show belonged on Broadway - not incidentally, at the same ticket price as the magnificent and massive "South Pacific."
The producers are responsible for having brought "Rent," "Avenue Q" and "In the Heights" from Off-Broadway to the commercial theater. Clearly, they have antennae for original material that appeals to both young and crossover audiences.
But the show is so desperate to be loved - and yet so defiantly defensive and so oddly pleased with its success - that there's no room for audiences to discover the endearing smartness for themselves. I keep trying not to remember that classic National Lampoon cover, the one with a gun pointed at a dog's head and the threat: "Buy this magazine or we'll shoot this dog." Finding fault with the show is a bit like kicking a puppy that bites.
WHERE Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St.
BOTTOM LINE Shameless emotional blackmail, but with charm
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