[title of show] Delights Audiences with Meta Humor
The F. Perry Smith Studio Theater in Frostburg State University’s Performing Arts Center was the setting for a fittingly intimate and hilariously self-aware production of “[title of show],” an original Broadway musical. FSU’s production of the musical ran from April 15 to 23. The show features music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and a book by Hunter Bell.
“[title of show]” is a musical about two starving artists, Jeff and Hunter, trying to write a musical. Jeff was played by freshman theatre major Matthan Potts, while Hunter was portrayed by senior theatre major Josh Mooney.
Though technically secondary characters, Susan and Heidi contributed some of the most charming and comedic moments of the show, playing off of each other wonderfully. Sophomore theatre major Alex Hemphill and senior theatre and dance major Maddie Bohrer portrayed Susan and Heidi respectively.The chemistry of the cast was thoroughly impressive, though that may have had something to do with the performance being on the production’s closing night. Each actor possessed superb comedic timing, garnering laughter throughout the show despite quite a few obscure theatre references being dropped.
Usually when one goes to see a stage production, the intent of the cast and crew is to fully immerse the audience and make them forget that they are watching a show. This production completely shattered that expectation, without losing the audience for a second.
The show begins with a race against time, in which Jeff and Hunter have only three weeks to write an original musical to submit to the New York Musical Theatre Festival. In an extremely meta fashion, the musical seems to unfold as if it is being written and performed simultaneously. The creative duo surrounds themselves with a small team of fellow struggling artists to assist in achieving their goal, with the addition of ensemble cast members Jasmine Proctor, Kenny Waters, and Erienne McEldowney.
In a previous interview with The Bottom Line, the show’s director Mairzy Yost-Rushton expressed that she likes “that it breaks the “rules”—characters ignore the fourth wall, ignore time and space, and are often irreverent and self-referential in very funny ways.” This certainly rang true. Hunter, the “writer” of the musical, would often just declare a scene over, or insert a dream sequence in the place of what could have been a more appropriate and natural transition.
The musical gets to the heart of conflicts that creatives in any field, not just theatre, are sure to face. It addresses insecurity, criticism, and self-censorship for the sake of an audience that does not yet exist. These internal conflicts quickly translate into external ones, and the cast eventually becomes divided over creative decisions. In many ways, this show is an outline of the creative process: messy, candid, and often quite vulgar.
Despite, or perhaps because of its unconventional format, the production was both highly relatable and entertaining. “[title of show]” did an excellent job showcasing the talent that exists within FSU’s theatre department, both young and veteran.
The Department of Theatre and Dance’s final production of their 2015-2016 season will be the Spring Dance Concert, which will take place May 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center. To order tickets, call the Theatre and Dance box office at 301.687.7462.All images courtesy of Kim Lartz.