“[titleofshow] …deserves to come back again and again on the London fringe theatre scene”
The musical-within-a-musical format is used throughout many different productions. The musical-about-writing-a-musical format, not as frequent, and nowadays can be a bit more of a compelling premise. [titleofshow] introduces us to Hunter and Jeff, a writing duo who try to put together a new show to enter to the New York Musical Theatre Festival, last minute. The show ends up being a roaring success and they soon see it open on Broadway. We see into the highs and lows about the making of a modern musical – the workshops, the changes, the honesty they start with and the vanity that soon takes over.
[titleofshow] is well-known in the musical-fringe world and very popular among recent MT graduates. Originally premiering in 2004, [titleofshow] is still relevant to artists who are trying to make something of their work, without compromising to sell out to mainstream audiences. Though, when the opportunity arises to go to Broadway, our main two writers conflict on keeping their original intentions intact. The characters in [titleofshow] don’t run into many blinding obstacles on their way to success, but the overly metaphor-ed, meta musical numbers make it a pleasant journey to watch.
I was fortunate enough to see the UK premiere at The Landor Theatre many years ago – that version of the show was sharply directed and had the excitement of being the first London outing lighting the fire. This new production at The Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall is still fun and imaginative but lacks the punch and takes a while to get off its feet. Comedic moments can be lost in the shuffle and the set up for songs like critical song ‘Die, Vampire, Die’ can lose its effect if not set up strongly. The audience can miss the array of metaphors and quips.
The cast are immensely vocally talented and all get their moments to shine. Jordan Fox’s Jeff is very endearing and Michael Vinsen’s Hunter leads the show well. They make a great paring. The cast is completed by Kirby Hughes and Natalie Williams playing Heidi and Susan, respectively. Both women aren’t used as frequently as they could be in the first half but they make that up in the second act in their duet, ‘Secondary Characters’, which grabs the most attention and praise through the whole evening.
[titleofshow] is a pleasant show and deserves to come back again and again on the London fringe theatre scene – though, perhaps it needs a fresh pair of eyes and a revamped direction to put it back on the ‘must see’ list, where it was back in the early 2000s.
All photos: PGB Studios