BWW Review: A Quirky and Accessible [TITLE OF SHOW] at NextStop Theatre
There are plenty of musicals within the theatre world ranging from the obscure to the popular. It might never occur to one to think about how a musical is essentially born. [title of show], which features music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and book by Hunter Bell, follows four friends composer Jeff (Bobby Libby), writer Hunter (John Loughney), actress Heidi (Katie McManus), and actress Susan (Jennifer Redford) as they collaborate on a show to submit to the New York Musical Theatre Festival. With only three weeks before the submission deadline, the four artists must overcome their "vampires" to get this show submitted before it is too late. [title of show] becomes meta as the characters of Jeff, Hunter, Heidi, and Susan are based on real artists. NextStop Theatre's production takes up the meta to another level by casting real-life friends as the actors in the show and allowing them to be co-directors. Most theatre about theatre can easily lose audiences but, NextStop's [title of show] is overall accessible and relatable to a wider audience through its characters and humor.
Throughout the musical, it is apparent that Libby, Loughney, McManus, and Redford are comfortable with each other onstage. This familiarity is helpful as the cast plays off well especially in scenes and songs in which all four are together onstage. The best company numbers of [title of show] include "Die, Vampire, Die!", "Filling Out the Form", and "Change It, Don't Change It/Awkward Photo Shoot." In "Die, Vampire, Die," a high energy number, the cast confronts types of people in their lives who have stood between them and their creativity. This number captures the theme of [title of show] in ways that perhaps the other numbers might not by highlighting how creativity can be extinguished by one's own thoughts or even the words of others.
Most of the musical focuses on the characters of Jeff and Hunter. Libby and Loughney shine together during the songs, "Blank Paper," "Two Nobodies in New York," and "A Part of It All." Their top song together without a doubt is the quirky, curse fueled song, "Blank Paper." During this song, writer Hunter struggles to write and he is visited by a sassy paper played by Loughney. Loughney and Libby's comedic timing is quite memorable as they go back and forth about Hunter's trouble with getting what he wants to say on paper. McManus and Redford are paired off to sing together in only two songs, "What Kind of Girl is She?" and "Montage Part 2: Secondary Characters." Their best song, "Montage Part 2: Secondary Characters," pokes fun at how Heidi and Susan are only secondary characters. The banter between McManus and Redford is quite funny as they sing about being able to have "time to dance in the spotlight" and how they are "like Frodo and Sam Wise."
The "vampires" aren't the only forces working against Jeff, Hunter, Heidi, and Susan. There are many references to additional obstacles which these artists must confront such as the pressure of auditions, unemployment, lack of health insurance, and financial difficulties. Heidi struggles with not getting auditions because of the way she looks. Jeff often confronts financial difficulties. Hunter and Susan both juggle their day jobs with their creative gigs. NextStop Theatre's [title of show] is unique in that it is a real-life example of how one's "vampires" can be defeated in the name of creativity.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Photo caption and credit: Katie McManus, Bobby Libby, John Loughney and Jennifer Redford in [title of show] at NextStop Theatre Company. Photo by Lock and Company.
[title of show] plays NextStop Theatre- located at 269 Sunset Park Drive in Herndon, VA
- through January 27, 2019. For tickets, purchase them online.