Inclineâ€™s [title of show]: Â Singing Your Way to Fame, Or At Least Onto the Stage
Review by Ken Stern of [title of show]: Incline theatre
Maybe people growing into themselves have always been navel gazers. How old is the tale of Narcissus? His technology was a lake. Telephone answering machines are old technology and now with smartphones and selfies, it can be all me (or young struggling artists) all the time. Much better if they have talent and skill, good singing voices, good timing, are able to dance, and mix well together. Welcome to [title of show], playing at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater through October 16th.
The premise: best friends Hunter (earnestly played by Noah Berry), a writer, and composer Jeff (earnest Hunter Henrickson) decide to create a full production for a musical festival whose application deadline is in three weeks. Lucky for them, and us, they have perky, sparkling, good singing friends in Heidi (Lindsey Augusta Mercer), a Broadway actress, if only in ensembles, and Susan (Erin McCamley), who is talented way beyond her office manager day job.
And, yes, you can stage a musical from a set consisting of four wheeled chairs, a table, a raised platform to the back, and with the keyboardist off to the side.
Once the guys get going, they face up to being â€œTwo Nobodies In New Yorkâ€ and decide every idea has potential, singing to each other â€œWhat if this dialogue were set to music? / What if what weâ€™re saying could be said in a song?â€ â€œHey, thatâ€™s not a bad idea perhaps we could use it / Music in a musical, how can we go wrong?â€ When that is the theme of the show, you canâ€™t. On the other hand, few of the songs are outstandingâ€”though they all fit.
And off they go, with a paean to Broadway musicals â€œMonkeys And Playbills,â€ composer Jeff riffing on historic titles, supported by Heidi (and accompanying slides of playbills flashed above the set) while Susan addresses the monkey on the back of her writer friend Hunter. Since this is stream of consciousness, chronologically as it develops script writing, the smashed together themes work, but not seamlessly. Kind of like a first draft.
The cast shoulders on, the play developing as the play unfolds before the audience. Much better is Susan singing lead in â€œDie Vampire Die.â€ And best of all, oddly, is when the men exit stage left and the women command the set though they know they are â€œSecondary Characters.â€ And they, or the lyricist, areÂ right, as together they sing â€œWeâ€™re equipped / To steer the ship / â€˜Til this trippy skit ends / And by the end of this song, weâ€™ll be best friends.â€ And they are.
By the end of Act I the four have completed their musical, deciding to call the production [title of show] from the line in the festival application. And the show is good enough to get rave reviews and crowds throughout the festival.
That leaves Act II to deal with budding, or potential, fame, or not. There is some wrestling with purpose (fame, money, art) and a lot of doubt, but by curtainâ€“ta-da!â€“success.
Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bowen; Book by Hunter Bell. Mike Sherman, as director, ably moves the casts through their paces. Music Director Jacob Priddy, and Choreographer Jay Goodlett continue the Inclineâ€™s reputation for crisp, coordinated singing and dancing. Erin Magner is production stage manager.
For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com. The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater is at 801 Matson Place Cincinnati Ohio 45204.