Thursday, June 30, 2011

[title of show] @ Mountain View Center for Performing Arts

Watching [title of show], the musical by two guys about two guys writing a musical, can be compared to looking at reflections in a hall of mirrors. Because a hall of mirrors also contains panes of glass, you never know if you are seeing something that is real or something that is a reflection. This concept of reality versus reflection initially confuses the storyline but, as the 90 minute show (with no intermission) moves along, meatier themes and more memorable songs are introduced that ultimately make for a sweet but mostly benign evening.

The Mountain View Center for Performing Arts (MVCFPA) production opened on June 1, 2011, following (by years) its premiere at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, and subsequent runs off-Broadway and on. It is this journey that is performed by a first rate cast including New York based actors Jamison Stern, Laura Jordan and Farah Alvin and the Bay Area's Ian Leonard. The ladies, Jordan and Alvin, come off best - probably because there characters are written with more depth and they have the most memorable songs. What Kind Of Girl Is She? is a wonderfully funny duet placed in the middle of the show which on reflection (yea, pun intended) seems the turning point to real. Jordan's Die Vampire, Die!, even with its somewhat forced lyrical metaphors, is a clever number, universal in its theme of defeating the doubts in our own heads. Alvin's solo A Way Back To Then is a triumph of simplicity and power, arguably the best song in the show.

Stern and Leonard are good enough despite their characters seeming as cartoons rather then flesh and blood. They also get saddled with inferior songs like Untitled Opening Number, Two Nobodies In New York and An Original Musical - unfortunately, the first three songs in the show. All four actors perform the nicely staged Monkeys and Playbills (with its roll out of classic Playbill covers), the rhythmic Change It, Don't Change It/Awkward Photo Shoot, and Nine People's Favorite Things, the final song that closes out the evening on a high note. Also, worth his weight in gold is William Lieberatore, MVCFPA's Musical Director, who accompanies the cast on stage and actually has a few small yet pivotal lines!

The set, with its backdrop of brick and plaster emulating a New York studio apartment, is bare bones and fits the scenario. Each character is given their own chair (shades of Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It For You Wholesale?) and most of the numbers are staged using them. (I thought seeing Jordan's character, the only one with a full time job, rolling around in her $800 Herman Miller desk chair a nice touch.) Director Meredith McDonough has managed to create the whole of New York in this small apartment.

[title of show] is not a musical in the grand Broadway tradition. It does not use a full orchestra, there is no dancing and it has references that only theatre queens would recognize (the program includes a glossary for the uninformed). And, as directly quoted from the script, it often seems like obvious pandering and too self-indulgent. Still though composer Jeff Bowen and writer Hunter Bell have managed to do something that many other artists have not - get their work seen; that, in itself, makes [title of show] a triumph.


  1. meatier, like, a small asteroid?

  2. I guess they are homophones. I didn't even realize until you pointed it out, Mr. A.