Music & Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Book by Hunter Bell
Directed by Ellie Higgins
Feeling down about all of those camp, kitschy and ludicrous musicals we’ve missed out on over the pandemic? Even the terrible stinkers? Well, boy-oh-boy, do we have a show for you – [Title of Show] which feels like a tidal wave of all the triumphs, obscurities and hidden gems pounding into your tiny little mind at once. A love letter to musical theatre, at the heart of this romp it isn’t merely a documentary-style process of creating an original musical, but of comradery and the emerging relationship between four friends.
As set in truth as it is fiction, elements of [Title of Show] certainly borrows from original creators Jeff Bowen & Hunter Bell’s life. The pair sought out to create something almost universally deceased, an original concept. Lampooning the industry, dragging up the dregs of musical’s forgotten past, [Title of Show] sees the pair recruit friends Heidi and Susan into a show about the process of making a show. Cracks form, tempers flare and emotions outpour as this seemingly unsubtle story of creativity unfolds as a complex and dialogue laden trek over the broken relationships across the industry and the birthplace of ideas, dreams and anxieties.
You’d be forgiven for noticing that the team of Andrew Gardiner, Steven McFeat, Rebecca Drever, Rachael Anderson, and the charming Diane C. Peet have an infatuation for all things Broadway and West End. Littering the production are obscure references, anecdotes, and background snippets which puritan in some way or shape to the industry, though I’m not sure Disney will ever find quite as seductive an Ariel as Gardiner.
But what cements the adaptation lies within the performances of the key cast, particularly Gardiner and McFeat. The sincerity and realism of McFeat is matched by his passionate outbursts of expression and obvious enjoyment. The chemistry, palpable even over split screens with no physical interaction, is impressive, the momentary spats of venom as tangible as the often seen friendships. As the story progresses, a pinnacle is reached as Drever’s sensationally powerful vocals plays over the dramatic capabilities of Gardiner, once more reminding audiences of his remarkable abilities as a vocalist, a burst of energy and yet capable of humble grace. They turn [Title of Show] into something which speaks to people on an emotional level, unable to touch and feel loved ones, as much as it is entertainment.
So, in this smorgasbord of musical mayhem miscellany, how does the score play out? Referential in aspects, the composition of the production blends genres and has some clever lyrics but what carries the soundtrack are the performances. And even where the lyrics stumble somewhat and crash into one another, Trigger Theatre infuse a sense of self into the adaptation and change and challenge issues the original score possesses. Drever, Anderson and Gardiner sweat no stuff in providing exceptional vocal control while maintaining an edge of humour or emotional understanding. Giving their all, director Ellie Higgins constructs principal numbers to overcome issues with the original book, challenging aspects and even help bring out the talents in individual performances.
No cash for a fancy transition? Slap on some music. Not able to location shoot? Draw in some backgrounds. Ingenuity over the past year has been exemplary for production companies, and Trigger Theatre place their wit and creativity before their wallet, striking with their strengths rather than masquerading any supposed issues.
For the lovers, the dreamers, and you, [Title of Show] speaks not only to the budding creatives and bathroom singers but to any who share a vision with their friends or are missing loved ones. Trigger Theatre’s revamp of the production maintains the foundations but builds upon high with their delightful sense of identity, carrying a tremendous level of professionalism and forging their own path of self-creativity.
Runs until June 27th with tickets available here