Quirky, irreverent and original – Signature’s [title of show] is a hilarious look at two friends’ attempt to write a musical fit for Broadway.
By Julie LaPorte
For everyone who has ever wondered what goes into writing a musical, this is the show for you. A behind-the-scenes look at the creative process, [title of show] was written by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen (who portrayed themselves when the play was performed in New York) and will be playing at Signature Theatre through June 27.
Using an upcoming theatre festival as an excuse to jump-start their flagging writing careers, best friends Hunter and Jeff decide to write a musical in three weeks, and end up writing about writing a musical. Joined in their efforts by their stage-struck friends Heidi and Susan, the four take the audience on a fresh and funny journey into the creation, rise and fall, and ultimately the success of an original musical.
James Gardiner plays Hunter with great energy and focus. His driven, passionate character will do anything to see his play succeed. Sam Ludwig is creative and sensitive as Jeff. There is an innocent quality in his portrayal of the talented songwriter, and he charms viewers.
Erin Driscoll plays Heidi, hopeful and sweet, and the only one of the group to have ever made it to Broadway, even if it is only as an understudy/ensemble member. Jenna Sokolowski plays Susan very well, sarcastic, awkward, slightly inappropriate and reminiscent of Norma Desmond with her over-the-top gestures and sweeping pronouncements. The four balance each other perfectly, and all of their voices are strong and the songs are delightful.
Set in Signature’s intimate 110-seat ARK Theatre, [title of show], which won three Obie Awards and a Tony Award nomination, is anything but your typical musical. The set is a bare stage with four chairs, one keyboard and there are no costume changes. Stripping these elements away allows the story to answer a few hard questions with a light touch, and easily finds its way into the hearts of the audience.
Book by Hunter Bell, music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, directed and choreographed by Matthew Gardiner, music direction by Gabriel Mangiante, scenic design by Adam Koch, costume design by Kristopher Castle, lighting design by Mark Lanks, sound design by Matt Rowe.