four chairs + one keyboard = a musical: Mauckingbird Theatre Company’s [title of show]

by Dominic Santos

What if this review was set to music? What if everything I’m writing could be said in a song? I’m sure this essay of sorts would make an amazing ballad but it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining as Mauckingbird Theatre Company’s [title of show].

cast L-R: Kate Brennan, Michael Philip O'Brien, Kim Carson, Ben Dibble, playing Upstairs at the Adrienne in Philadelphia, PA through January 30

[title of show] is an original musical with a book by Hunter Bell and music/lyrics by Jeff Bowen. The musical is usually said to be about two guys writing a musical, about two guys writing a musical, about two guys writing a musical. Head ache much? I say it’s about the journey of two musical theatre geeks (theatre trash as I like to call them) as they write what actually happens to them as they create a musical. It’s almost like watching a reality television show set to music. The musical follows them from the first submission to the New York Musical Theatre Festival to their opening night on Broadway.

Mauckingbird Theatre Company is a theatre company located in Philadelphia that produces gay-themed  professional theatre. I have never heard of them until now but if they keep putting out great products like [title of show], I will most definitely be back. The show stars Barrymore Award winner, Michael Philip O’Brien as Hunter, Ben Dibble as Jeff, Barrymore Award winner, Kim Carson as Heidi, Kate Brennan as Susan, and Barrymore Award winner, Mathew Wright as Larry (Mathew also serves as the musical director). I was very impressed with the cast as a whole.  Great vocals, great acting, outstanding comedic timing. This cast is very talented. They have the Barrymores to prove it.

Director Peter Reynolds finds the heart in this musical. A show like this could easily be lost in comedy land but it’s more about the dream of these four characters and what it would mean to be “a part of it all.” I agreed with a lot of the choices he made but I was confused on the decision of breaking the fourth wall sometimes. I wanted to sit and watch the dream unfold in front of me but then all of a sudden I was a part of the dream and inside Hunter’s apartment. I just felt it unnecessary but it didn’t bother me too much to where I was annoyed.

I consider myself a “tosser.” A “tosser” is a fan of [title of show]. I know every song on the cast album by heart (the garbage man should pick up this theater trash), followed the web series on YouTube, and was fortunate enough to see this short lived show on The Great White Way. The original cast consisted of the actual book writer and composer Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, and their friends Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell all of whom played themselves. Being a part of that audience was one of the most inspiring moments of my life because I was actually watching four people, who I started to really care about, have their dreams come true right in front of my face. I was a little worried that the musical would lose some relevance in a regional house. Although I didn’t leave as inspired as I did leaving the Broadway theater, I definitely enjoyed Mauckingbird’s production and recommend that you go see it and make [title of show] one of your “favorite things.”

[title of show]
Book by Hunter Bell
Music/Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Directed by Peter Reynolds
Musical Direction by Mathew Wright
January 12 – 30, 2011
Mauckingbird Theatre Company
UPstairs at the Adrienne Theatre
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia PA

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