BWW Review: [TITLE OF SHOW] at Westpoint Performing Arts Centre
[title of show] is a totally excellent way for Auckland Music Theatre to kick of NZ Theatre month with its first offering about the trials and tribulations of writing and putting on a show.
I'd expected to laugh and I knew about the quirky contemporary 'reality' of this show but I wasn't expecting to feel the vulnerability. All those involved in theatre will identify with the 'what-the-hell-do-I-think-I'm-doing' fear that is masked within a very thin veneer of pseudo-confidence, sarcasm, humour and denial.
I was having a great night and then THAT pause at the moment before the word 'show' is sung at the end got me; right in 'the feels'.
A show about a show is not new but Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowden have put a refreshing 'take' on the concept.
The story chronicles its own creation as an entry in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and follows the struggles of the author and composer/lyricist and their two actress friends during the initial, three-week creative period, along with subsequent events leading up to the show's production.
Four very talented singers/actors and a skilled musical director join the stage with a piano and 4 chairs.
Griffin Jenkins plays the part of writer Hunter Bell. He attracts the audience like a fly to honey and is a delightful mix of the Elder Cunningham character from Book of Morman and an older Julian Dennison with his own 'mix' of fabulous delivery of understated humour and one-liners. You need to be quick to pick them all up. I've witnessed his magnificent musical direction before but I do hope he doesn't discount his onstage options.
Lucas Haugh plays the intense Jeff Bowen who is an OCD wordsmith and worrier. He and Jenkins play off each other fabulously in both harmony and dialogue. Jeff is OCD about words, even his name which he explores saying in as many ways as he can; Jeff, Jefff, Jeffffffff and 'you don't go to the ATM because that's just like saying 'I'm going to the Automatic Teller Machine machine.' I thought about that one on the way home!
I felt that I should know Carla Newton who plays Heidi in this show. It bugged me until the lightbulb went on. This girl is a dead ringer for Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in her mannerisms and style but she adds a further dimension of vulnerability to her delivery and beautiful singing.
Zaverr Docter plays the I-want-to-be-sensible-but-I-know-I-should-give-up-my-day-job-to-follow-my-dreams Susan, full of angst and quirkiness. Docter is an experienced dynamic performer and draws the audience into the story playing the part with heart. Those eyes though! She has some great lines; 'your note can suck my note because my note is your note's bitch'
Musical Director Erin Fagan is onstage throughout the show. Accolades to him for the fab harmonies and dealing with the pace of the chopping and changing between under-scoring, dialogue and mixes of other songs. Not a beat was missed - literally.
Director Pauline Vella has skillfully infused synergy and symmetry into a fast-paced script that relies on humour to reveal vulnerability. This is not easy to do but this team have collaborated to bring something special to the stage. Go see it.
Accolades to the tech team who were faultless on opening night.
[Title of Show]
Auckland Music Theatre
Westpoint Performing Arts Centre
190 Meola Road, Western Springs, Auckland