BWW Review: Village's THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES Is Super Fun ... For Nerds

BWW Review: Village's THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES Is Super Fun ... For Nerds
The cast of
The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes.
Photo credit: © 2018 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

A few years back, on one of my trips back to the Mothership (New York), I was going to see one of the many incarnations of "Forbidden Broadway", a series I've loved for years. I asked my travelling companion if he wanted to join me. And while he enjoys theater he's not what you would call a theater nerd and so he opted out feeling that many of the inside jokes would fly over his head. It turned out to be a good call. Village Theatre currently has their latest show brought up from the Village Originals Festival onto the Mainstage, "The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes" and while it has a few moments where the story drags or gets slightly mired down in its own joke, I found it to be super fun. But in retrospect, it's super fun to me and was super fun to the person I was with but we're both musical theater nerds. I think the inside jokey-ness of this one might be lost on your basic theatergoer.

In Christopher Diamond and Michael Kooman's show we meet Howard Barnes (Joshua Carter), an average guy who's been through a bad breakup so he's a bit closed off. Life for Howard is pretty routine until one night, when he receives an invitation to his ex-girlfriend's wedding, and he begins to hear music coming from nowhere. The music grows until Howard realizes that he's in a full-blown musical and he can't get out. He confides in Maggie (Taryn Darr), the girl at work he has a crush on who knows everything about musicals and they go off on a quest to find the one and only musical wizard Von Schwartzenheim (Jeff Steitzer) to see if he can help.

There are at least three inside jokes in Von Schwartzenheim's name alone being a mashup of the Von Trapps, and composers Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim. And that's just his last name. And while I think that's hilarious, I wonder how far reaching that feeling would go. Beyond the insular nature of the piece, there are a few moments that just drag the show down. There are a few jokes that get beaten to death and lead nowhere, and an emotional climax that stops the show dead in its tracks. So much so that a few members of my audience thought it was over and got up to leave.

But for a nerd, qualms aside, the show does have its moments of absolute joyous fun and the ensemble cast kills it. Carter is completely likable as the everyman caught in a ridiculous situation and grows throughout the piece beautifully. Darr is adorable as the quirky pixie of a theater nerd leading him through this quest and the two have excellent chemistry together. Steitzer is delightfully over the top as Von Schwartzenheim as he orchestrates this crazy world. And Jasmine Jean Sim brings in some fantastic moments as the ex-girlfriend Grace whose sultry presence keeps pulling Howard into old habits.

But as fun as it is, the biggest issue is that it's such a niche show with a specific audience. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Village Theatre's "The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes" a joyous for me but maybe not for all YAY-. Inside jokes are fine, but not so much when you put them on stage.

"The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes" performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through October 21stbefore moving to their Everett location running October 26ththrough November 18th. For tickets or information contact the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202 or the Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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