"[title of show]" Review - Original, Innovative, Engaging

Last week I had the opportunity to see what I feel is easily the best show of Northlight Theatre’s 2011-2012 season, [title of show] (Music & Lyrics by Jeff Bowen, Book by Hunter Bell, Directed by Peter Amster, Music Direction by Doug Peck).  The story centers around two friends, Hunter (Matthew Crowle) and Jeff (Stephen Schellhardt) who, upon hearing of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, agree to come up with something original to submit by the festival's deadline, a mere three weeks away.

Matthew Crowle (Hunter) and Stephen Schellhardt (Jeff)

 

While initially there is much debate as to whether they should even enter the festival, particularly with the deadline for submissions looming large -- and perhaps even more as to what the piece they enter into the festival should be -- they soon discover that nothing that they can come up with is as original, interesting or entertaining as the actual process of coming up with a original musical. So, with the help of their long-time actor friends, Susan (McKinley Carter) and Heidi (Christine Sherrill) -- the only one of the four who has actually performed in a show on Broadway --  the duo embark on the task of coming up with what is in essence an original musical about coming up with an original musical.

 

Front: Matthew Crowle (Hunter) and Stephen Schellhardt (Jeff). Back: McKinley Carter (Susan) and Christine Sherrill (Heidi)



Through much discussion and, as you might expect of a musical, many songs -- such as “Two Nobodies in New York,” “Monkeys and Playbills,” “Part of It All,” “Die Vampire, Die!,” “Filling Out the Form,” “Change It, Don’t Change It,” and “A Way Back to Then” -- the audience is taken along for an inside look at the experience, giving audience members a sense of the ups and downs along the way.  We are taken from Jeff and Hunter’s start as two unknowns living in New York in love with the theatre, hoping to make it in that world, to the self-doubt that they have to deal with, to entering their work in the festival, to balancing their personal relationships and professional lives, to balancing their day jobs with their work in the musical, to wrangling with just how much to alter their work so that it can be this commercial success that they’d hoped for all along and more.

 

Music Director Doug Peck (Larry) with (L to R): Christine Sherrill (Heidi), Matthew Crowle (Hunter), Stephen Schellhardt (Jeff) and McKinley Carter (Susan)



[title of show] is by far one of the most entertaining, realistic -- and yes, original -- not to mention well-acted productions that I have seen in quite some time. While there are some shows that may tend to oversimplify relationships, or perhaps concoct some sort of quick, convenient resolution, that doesn’t really happen here. Each character is multi-dimensional, so that we’re able to get a true sense of who they are and what the dynamic is within the group, which only adds to the realism. In all, [title of show] is original, innovative and engaging... an absolute must-see for anyone who loves the theatre.

 

Stephen Schellhardt (Jeff), McKinley Carter (Susan), Music Director Doug Peck (Larry), Matthew Crowle (Hunter) and Christine Sherrill (Heidi)



[title of show] is scheduled to run through June 10, 2012 at Northlight Theatre. Curtain times are Tuesdays at 7:30 PM (May 8 and 29 only); Wednesdays at 1:00 PM (except May 23) and 7:30 PM (except May 30); Thursdays at 7:30 PM; Fridays at 8:00 PM; Saturdays at 2:30 PM (except May 5) and 8:00 PM; and Sundays at 2:30 PM and 7:00 PM (except May 13, 20 and June 10). Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie. For additional information regarding this production, any special events associated with this production, Northlight Theatre or Northlight’s 2012-2013 season, please visit www.northlight.org. To purchase tickets to [title of show], visit www.northlight.org or call 847-673-6300. Please note that [title of show] is intended for adults, as there is coarse language and adult content in the show.

 

Production Photos: Michael Brosilow

 

 

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