Deadlines scare us, and being creative on a deadline is especially daunting. When composer-lyricist Jeff Bowen and writer Hunter Bell decided to submit a show to the New York Musical Theatre Festival a few years back, they had just three weeks. What to write about? How about their high-pressure situation? They didn’t even bother with a title — the application asked for “[title of show].” That’s what they called their undertaking, a show about two guys trying to assemble a musical on a deadline. Their creation, [title of show], became an off-Broadway hit that moved to Broadway in 2009. It’s getting its Cincinnati premiere thanks to New Edgecliff Theatre.
Bowen and Bell actually called NET’s cast and crew on opening night to wish them well, which must have added a few more volts of electricity to the performance.
This is a show for people who love musicals: It revels in the genre with self-referential songs like “Untitled Opening Number” and “Secondary Characters,” and it wrestles with the double-edged sword of subject matter (“Monkeys and Playbills”) and paralyzing self-doubt (“Die Vampire, Die”). Without a strong cast, this show wouldn’t be much fun.
So give NET and director Greg Procaccino credit for pulling together a cast of singing actors who make it work: recent NKU grads Tim Hein (as the geeky writer) and Brad Frost (as the perfectionist composer), with Danielle Muething (as their sardonic but faithful friend) and Lori Valentine (as an actress with modest Broadway experience). Add onstage piano accompaniment by the very adept Mark Femia, four chairs (used cleverly in Maggie Perrino’s inventive choreography), a colorful New York backdrop (Samantha Reno), effective lighting (Glenn Goodwin) and sound that includes ringtones and a sassy answering machine (Tisha Boone), and you have an utterly charming show that fills its 90 minutes with nonstop entertainment.
[TITLE OF SHOW], presented by New Edgecliff Theatre, continues through April 30. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.