By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 1 hours and 55 minutes with no intermission
With the arts scene booming in Baltimore, some who are not in the “the know” enjoy (or don’t enjoy) the final product of months of auditions, casting, rehearsals, finding designers, and sometimes even writing but sometimes folks wonder what it takes to get a show from page to stage. Fells Point Corner Theatre‘s latest offering, [Title of Show] by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, with Direction by Kristen Cooley, Music Direction by Mandee Ferrier Roberts, and Choreographed by Tom Wyatt.
[Title of Show] actually covers its own creation and it’s journey from a blank page to the New York Musical Theatre Festival, all the way up to it’s Off Broadway run. Much of the material is based on true events and people, including writers, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, so much so that they used the real names of the folks involved. It explains the process and the changes and compromises that must be made and even the possible change in the people involved.
Set Design by Bush Greenbeck is simple but he uses his space wisely and his use of levels and revolves keeps the action moving and interesting. Primarily a unit set with set pieces, Greenbeck’s design fits this piece nicely and move the piece along.
Choreography by Tom Wyatt is charming and the cast seems to have a good grasp of it and they are tight and well-rehearsed. There’s not a lot going on so you won’t see any big dance numbers, but with four characters, that would be going a bit overboard, anyway, but the choreography that is present is appropriate and adds value to the production.
Music Direction by Mandee Ferrier Roberts, who is also a character in the show, as the sole instrumenalist, is superb. I want to take a moment to say that the vocal work in this piece is outstanding. The four actors are in key and in harmony every step of the way. The whole piece has a very subdued sound having only piano accompaniment as backup, but the music shines through because of stellar performances. Mandee Ferrier Roberts is the usual accompanist, but I had the pleasure of experiencing Homeretta Ayala’s performance and it’s as if she had been performing with them from day one. Overall, the music is what makes this piece, but then again, it should… it’s a musical! Kudos to Roberts for a job well done.
Kristen Cooley, a wonderful fixture in Baltimore theatre, takes the helm of this production an makes her vision and love for this piece apparent. With an easy seat and good casting, she keeps this show moving and interesting. This is a unique show in that it’s not really a show within a show, but a show about its own creation, but Cooley seems to have a good comprehension of the script and and presents it clearly and with authenticity making for an enjoyable evening of theatre.
Moving into the performance aspect of this production, Owen O’Leary takes on the role of the more cautious, subdued Jeff and Izaak Michael tackles the role of the more exuberant and frantic Hunter. Both of these actors really do get their characters but, whether or not it is a directorial choice, both seem a bit too scripted throughout the entire piece. The singing… top notch, but the acting seems a bit forced. The script is a bit trite at times, as well, so that doesn’t help, either. This isn’t to say these gentlemen didn’t do an admirable job in these roles. Vocally, they are strong and have a pleasant, clean sound and they are both confident and seem comfortable on the stage, giving commendable performances.
The highlights of this production are the female counterparts, Heidi and Susan played by Lauren Stuart and Casey Dutt, respectively. These two actors are powerhouses and give superb and confident performances. Dutt has a natural flare and shines in her featured number “Die, Vampire, Die!” and Stuart gives a poignant, heartfelt performance of her featured number “A Way Back to Then” toward the end of the show. Both have great chemistry with each other and with O’Leary and Michael, making them a delight to watch.
Final thought… [Title of Show] at Fells Point Corner Theatre might not be my cup of tea as I see the script as a little trite and though the song selections are fitting and easy on the ear, they’re not ones that left an impression on me or had me humming as I left the theatre. However, it is a fun romp that delves into the subject of creating theatre, more specifically, musical theatre and all the good and not so good things that go into it. The production itself is simple, but the voices are absolutely top notch and the portrayal of the four characters by the actors give the lackluster script a good boost. With bouncy songs, a committed cast (and accompanist), and a composer/lyricist from right here in Baltimore, [Title of Show] is not the usual fare we get from Fells Point Corner Theatre but it’s refreshing to see they’re broadening their horizons and adding a musical to their season. If you’ve ever wondered how a musical is written, this show is a pretty good representation of the process and worth a look if you’re around town.
This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theater’s production of [Title of Show]… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
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