[Title of Show] Explores Artistic Creation at Lyric Arts in Anoka

Photo by Molly Weibel, 1000 Words Photography

[Title of Show] is the “in joke” version of a musical. It will play like gangbusters for theater nerds, actors, anyone involved in the creative process of musical theatre. For those not in that circle, I suggest you read through the resources Lyric Arts has put together here https://www.lyricarts.org/what-audiences-should-know-title-of-show. With that under your belt you’ll feel like you are in on the joke. Not a big reader? you’ll probably still have a good time. This is the ultimate meta musical. It’s a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical.

The music and lyrics were written by Jeff Bowen with book by Hunter Bell. Originally written in 3 weeks to be submitted to the New York Musical Theatre Festival but was later expanded and revised as it went from being accepted to the festival, then to Off Broadway and on to Broadway. The version currently being performed in Anoka is the Broadway version. This version tells the story of Jeff and Hunter who write a musical in three weeks to submit to the New York Musical Theatre Festival. They decide their musical will be about writing a musical to submit to the New york Musical Theatre Festival. Their musical is accepted and performed, then they work on revising it for Off Broadway and finally they make it to Broadway. It’s an autobiographical show written as it happened. The other two main characters are Heidi and Susan, two actor friends who help put on the show. It was interesting to read that the original cast for the New York Musical Theatre Festival remained the same Off Broadway, Broadway, and the national tour. The cast was Jeff Bowen, Hunter Bell, Heidi Blickenstaff, and Susan Blackwell. There was also a video blog called The [Title of Show] Show, which you’ll see the reason for during the show.

The show is directed by Jake Sung-Guk Sullivan with music direction by Bradley Beahen who is the fifth member of the cast playing Larry who is the on stage Keyboardist. The role of Larry was played in the original production by Larry Pressgrove who was the arranger and musical director. Sullivan does a nice job of the staging the the action. I particularly liked the use of flashlights during the song “Change It, Don’t change It/Awkward Photo Shoot. The handling of the photo shoot was also well staged and included one of my favorite moments for the Larry character. He doesn’t get many lines, but each one is rewarded with a laugh. I also really enjoyed the set by scenic designer Cory Skold it plays on the characters love of theatre, which is evident by all the references their dialogue and songs contain. The four main performers are Bradley Johnson as Jeff, Alice McGlave as Heidi, Lux Mortenson as Susan, and Brendan Nelson Finn as Hunter. All four do a great job with each having their moments to shine. Johnson’s Jeff plays the gay straight man to Finn’s more outrageous Hunter who gets the line when being told not to masturbate and work on the script. “Are you saying I’m a procastubater?”

The strength of the show is it’s idea and it’s script. It’s a really interesting idea and it’s history and evolution is as interesting as this end product. The songs are where the show falters a bit. They are all enjoyable while they are happening but many of them don’t really feel like songs so much as signing dialogue, but that dialogue is very entertaining. There were a couple of songs that really stood out “Die, Vampire, Die!” and “A Way Back to Then”. What’s interesting about the show is that it isn’t all fun and insider jokes, as they struggle with taking the show to the next stages, there are clashes and bad behavior. Which just reinforces the truth of this show, creating can be fun and wonderful and fulfilling, it can also be hard work and draining. Collaboration sometimes results in disagreement and those are not always handled with laughs and songs.

[Title of Show] is an interesting dive into the act of creation full of theatre references that will challenge even the biggest theatre nerds. I needed that resource list for quite a few of the references. For me this was a welcome return to form for Lyric Arts. This is one of my favorite Stages in MN if you haven’t been there yet, this is a good show to correct that. The show runs through February 6th for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.lyricarts.org/title-of-show