Under the direction of Allie Glickman with music direction by Paige Austin and Paul Lysek, this production is hysterical and full of inside jokes for theatre folks, especially musical theatre lovers. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard in a theater! I adore the crafty music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and the book by Hunter Bell.
The basic set is decorated with musical posters, four chairs, and a nightstand with a laptop. The sound and lighting are instrumental during scene changes, which cleverly include voicemails played in very low light with board operation by Beth Weisbach. Witty choreography by Dorothy Trigg helps tell the story and encourages the humor. The audience laughs wholeheartedly during such songs as “Monkeys and Playbills,” in which a dream sequence ensues and Jeff pulls Playbills from failed musicals out of a box titled as such, and Hunter is visited by Susan who charms him in a quirky way while encouraging monkeys as a great idea.
The storyline follows a show within a show, as Hunter (Ryan Burke) and Jeff (Emmett Patterson) scramble to write a musical in three weeks to submit to the New York Musical Theater Festival. They cast Susan (Sarah King) and Heidi (Samantha Oakes) and have Mary (Paige Austin) accompany them, expertly playing piano and interjecting with funny anecdotes. One of my favorite songs is “Die, Vampire, Die!,” in which they sing about people who criticize them and those that plague them with negative comments. Moreover, they lament about fighting the vampires within themselves, something that rings true with artists who desire to create and struggle to stay afloat without crumbling under the pressure they put upon themselves.
Ryan Burke (Hunter) has fantastic comedic timing as Hunter and packs a wallop of talent with his strong voice and outstanding range. He earns laughs right and left from the audience and comes across as genuine and natural, a true entertainer who is relatable. When this guy graduates, look out DC!
Sarah King (Susan) is a firecracker, popping out accents, physicality, a great singing voice and the strong ability to connect with everyone onstage. She had me in stitches with her bit about her desk job killing her!
Samantha Oakes (Heidi) has a beautiful singing voice and a sweet stage manner, earning major kudos with her vulnerable solo in “A Way Back to Then.”
Emmett Patterson (Jeff) is earnest and holds his own as a slightly strict but well-meaning character, and had me giggling when he corrected Hunter’s grammar frequently.
Paige Austin (Mary) is a delightful “accompanist” who plays the piano flawlessly and is an excellent member of the creative team, earning laughs and sympathy for being left out of the photos in “Awkward Photo Shoot” among others. Together, all these fine actors/singers are a cohesive unit and an impressive team.
Very fine writing in the book and lyrics make this once-Broadway show entertaining from top to bottom. It requires constant energy, and while there was a small lull from time to time, mostly in the beginning as the show builds and builds, the AU Players gave it their all. “Filling Out the Form” was another of my favorite songs, because of the humor and harmonies as well as the constantly changing choreography. Director Allie Glickman certainly achieved the mission of communicating the core theme of this story, that we’re willing to make sacrifices for the things we love, and to do the things we dare to dream, and the importance of believing in yourself against the odds.
This was an inspiring evening of surprises and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to see this wonderful production of [title of show].
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
[title of show] has one more performance tonight – March 30, 2013 at 8pm – at American University’s Studio Theatre in the Katzen Arts Center – 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. Tickets can be purchased at the box office 30 minutes before the performance begins.