This one-act musical, by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, is a musical about writing a musical. Yes, that’s right. Title of Show follows two writers in their quest to create “an original musical”. The complications, arguments and struggles are all aired out in this performance piece with a difference.
It’s an ingenious concept. The action is constantly twisting and turning in this show within a show. It’s a complete musical with catchy numbers but also a work-in-progress where a song may be interrupted half-way through to be cut. Obviously with a lot more moments like this, it’s also a comedy. And it does offer a lot of laughs.
“Four chairs and a keyboard does not a musical make” says one critic of the show… within the show. This performance proves that you can put on a musical with just that. And the director, Josh Seymour, has also done it in a pandemic. As there is nothing to hide behind, the show relies heavily on the strength of the four players.
Finding their way through the process are the main characters and creators of the musical. Marc Elliott (City of Angels) portrays a delightful Jeff, whilst Tyrone Huntley (Jesus Christ Superstar) adds shiver-inducing sounds as Hunter. Lucie Jones (Waitress) brings high-energy charm and soaring vocals to Heidi, whilst Jenna Russell (Merrily We Roll Along) contrasts with dry humour and sassy solos. The cast fits together perfectly in four-part harmony as well as in their storytelling. Credit to the performers, the chemistry doesn’t lack even though social distancing restrictions were in place.
Calling the piece “abstract” is an understatement. A dream sequence with cockney accents and a song about creative vampires aren’t the standard components of a musical. But that is what makes this show exciting and provocative. Bell and Bowen have created a completely unique “original musical” in a time of constant concept-adaptations. There is a great advantage in the filming of shows such as this one, whilst live theatre is at a standstill. A few looks to camera and a minimal backdrop of post-it notes doesn’t take away from this show, it immerses us in their rehearsal space.
The theatre references are obscure, the plot lags towards the end, but the show is so self-aware that it tells us so! This humorous depiction of the creative process doesn’t just “make a musical”, it makes a brilliant one.
Until 14th November at https://tinyurl.com/y29buznr
Reviewer: Coral Mourant
Reviewed: 12th November 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★