Inclineâ€™s [title of show] is an Escher Print of a Musical
Review by Laurel HumesÂ Â of [title of show]: Incline Theatre
Warsaw Federal Incline Theater is living up to its promise of bringing edgy, contemporary classics to the stage by opening its second District Series season with [title of show].
No chorus lines or splashy production numbers in this musical. Just four characters and a keyboardist â€“ and a lot of witty songs â€“ who take us through the process of, well, writing a show.
The true premise is that Hunter Bell (played by Noah Berry) and Jeff Bowen (Hunter Henrickson) did write a show in 2004 to enter the New York Musical Theatre Festival. With just three weeks to the application deadline, they enlist the help of two friends, Susan (Erin McCamley) and Heidi (Lindsey Augusta Mercer).
All four are theater wannabes, but stuck in just-to-pay-the-bills jobs. Only Heidi has performed on Broadway, albeit as the third understudy, second chorus in Little Mermaid.
What to write about? With the snobbery of youth â€“ and witty snipes at Broadway â€“ they reject shows based on books or movies or written for major stars. So their musical is about themselves writing a musical, which leads to some clever songs: â€œTwo Nobodies in New York,â€ â€œAn Original Musical,â€ and â€œI Am Playing Me.â€
The first act ends with â€œFilling Out the Formâ€ and the decision to leave the application line Title of Show blank. Hence the non-title [title of show]. And, since there is a second act, you know the show is chosen. That brings a new set of creative problems.
The Incline Theater cast is a delight, delivering laugh-out-loud lines and strong musical numbers (accompanied by music director Jacob Priddy and choreographed by Jay Goodlett). Their youthful exuberance is infectious. Their easy interaction makes you believe they are long-time friends.
The show is definitely an ensemble presentation. Yet each actor gets time in the spotlight.
Berry has a hilarious tour de force, singing and dancing as a blank piece of paper (true!) to urge his writing partner to get creative. McCamley, comedic through most of the show, poignantly performs â€œDie Vampire, Dieâ€ about the internal voices that can stifle creativity (you canâ€™t do that; youâ€™re not good enough).
In a nostalgic vein, Mercer does a lovely job with â€œA Way Back to Then,â€ recalling the un-self-consciousness of dancing in the backyard as a child for the sheer joy of it.
Director Mike Sherman uses video projections several times, to great advantage, especially when the set is basically a bare stage and four wheeled chairs.
[Title of show] is not perfect, but my complaints are more about the show than the Incline production. The second act drags in spots, maybe not surprising since the themes are more serious: what changes are necessary to make their show more commercially appealing (â€œUs just being us may not be enoughâ€). Tension and discord replace camaraderie and fun, a downer after an upbeat first act.
Overall, kudos to director Sherman and a strong cast for an enjoyable show.
[title of show] runs through October 16 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.