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Monday, June 20, 2011

TheatreWorks' [Title of Show] Is Intelligent, Heartfelt, and Really Funny

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge Laura Jordan (left to right), Ian Leonard, Jamison Stern, and Farah Alvin in [title of show] - MARK KITAOKA & TRACY MARTIN
  • Mark Kitaoka & Tracy Martin
  • Laura Jordan (left to right), Ian Leonard, Jamison Stern, and Farah Alvin in [title of show]

Yes, it's superclever and endlessly self-referential. But it's not off-putting -- in fact, it's kind of sweet. You might even call it inspiring. [title of show], now making its regional premiere at TheatreWorks in Mountain View, is one of the most purely entertaining productions I've seen so far this year, and it's well worth an excursion to the South Bay.

click to enlarge Laura Jordan (left) and Farah Alvin - MARK KITAOKA & TRACY MARTIN
  • Mark Kitaoka & Tracy Martin
  • Laura Jordan (left) and Farah Alvin
This is a musical about its own creation. The show begins with two writers (Ian Leonard and Jamison Stern) deciding that they want to enter the New York Musical Theatre Festival. The problem is that they have only three weeks to write something from scratch. As they trade ideas, they decide that their own conversations are every bit as entertaining as any other dialogue. So why not write a musical about themselves writing a musical with the help of their best galpals (Farah Alvin and Laura Jordan)? From that point forward, everything they say, no matter how insignificant or ridiculous, will end up in the show.
click to enlarge Jamison Stern - MARK KITAOKA & TRACY MARTIN
  • Mark Kitaoka & Tracy Martin
  • Jamison Stern
That's a smart concept. The miracle is that it never grows stale. Composer/lyricist Jeff Bowen and librettist Hunter Bell -- both of whom starred as themselves in the show's short Broadway run in 2008 -- keep finding ways to ratchet up the cleverness without getting too cute about it. Much of the musical's freshness derives from its status as an ongoing work-in-progress: In New York, each new production included material about the writers' experiences during previous productions. As the show gained more attention and scored limited runs on more New York stages, it became a wryly hilarious record of its own success.

In TheatreWorks' production, directed with infectious energy by Meredith McDonough, the ladies pretty much steal every one of their scenes. I especially liked Jordan, a loose-limbed comedian of natural goofiness and charm. But the biggest star of all is the show itself -- an intelligent, heartfelt, and very, very funny tribute to the creative process. Go see it.

[title of show] continues through June 26 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro (at Mercy), Mountain View. Admission is $19-$56.

For more events this week and beyond, check out our calendar section.

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Chris Jensen

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