Tuesday, July 22, 2008

[title of show]

"I'd rather be nine people's favorite thing than a hundred people's ninth favorite thing."

The only theater reviews I read, for the most part, are for plays that I don't plan to see or for ones that my friends or I have created; I much prefer to be surprised when I go to the theater, to make up my own mind about the piece. I may skim a review of something that interests me to see whether or not the person liked the production before I see it, but I'd really rather know as little about the play as possible. That way, I get to see the work the way artists involved intended it, unfolding before me onstage. Of course, I'm fortunate in that Catherine does read reviews and preview articles; without her, I'm not sure I'd ever go to theater that wasn't created by a friend. So while I'd heard great things about [title of show], I knew nothing at all about it other than it was a musical about making a musical.

I was most surprised by how natural the entire production seems, as though someone has made a documentary of these artists' journey. It's an odd documentary, of course, because the subjects are constantly reminding us throughout that it's not real: we're in a theater, watching them recreate how they created this musical. So it seems both incredibly lifelike and absurdly fake at the same time. Especially when they spontaneously break into song. And sing about spontaneously breaking into song. In a show about making this show.

What makes this production all the more remarkable to me is knowing that they've been able to retain that quality through all the revisions and rewrites that the show has gone through from the New York Musical Theater Festival to the Vineyard to limbo and now to Broadway. I think it's because they've taken the mantra that started this post to heart and, most importantly, found a group of producers who support them in their belief: a minor miracle all by itself.

Above all, I enjoyed watching the process, the developing piece—how Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell came up with idea, brought their friends Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff and Larry Pressgrove into the project, and the joy they all found in creating [title of show]. It reminded me how much fun it is to be creative; anytime the process isn't working for me (a not-uncommon occurrence, it often feels), it's hard to remember that this is supposed to be fun. Of course, they don't show the hours Jeff and Hunter sat alone in their rooms, looking at blank pieces of paper. Well, they kinda do, actually... but it's less than a minute. And then it's for a joke about the entertainment value for an audience of watching the process of working on a musical. Which is pretty damned funny.

While I really liked [title of show], I can't say I'm one of the nine, although I envy those people: how cool must it be to see your favorite thing succeed so well. I think I may be in the next rung of ninety-nine people for whom it's among their favorite things. But I'm sure that they're already well on their way to attaining the "five-hundred and twenty-five-thousand, six-hundred people loving their show."

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