In last year's monumental best seller, "The World Is Flat," author Thomas L.Friedman asserts that the development of world power can be divided into Globalization 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0: first a world run by countries, then by corporations, and today, by individuals, an awesome metamorphosis of power that could only have occurred because of the internet.
It is because of the internet that a small group of unknown individuals have been able to terrorize the entire world, a single barely-known politician could wrest a presidential nomination from the heavily favored front runner -- and a couple of unknown actors with a show that has no title could get their show on Broadway.
Can you believe that? It takes millions to get a show into a Broadway house, but how [title of show] landed in one is something that can only be described as a Globalization 3.0 phenomenon. The off-Broadway hit, which began life in 2004 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and then opened at the Vineyard Theatre off-Broadway in 2006, is a bona fide Broadway hit. Not because some producer or director thought it was fabulous and provided the financial backing -- they had no Oprah -- but because they had the internet. Before the internet, however, was the show.
What began as an off-hand comment from a friend -- that writer Hunter Bell and composer / lyricist Jeff Bowen submit an entry to the annual New York Musical Theater Festival -- became the driving force that spurred these two creative types to feverishly write a show in three weeks, and get it postmarked just before the midnight deadline.
And why bother figuring out what to title it? Just use the line from the entry form itself, [title of show], and let others worry about it. With no time to spare, the two decided to write a show about writing a show, focusing on what it is they actually do. Every anxiety-ridden moment became fodder for duets and quartets in two- or four-part harmony. Bringing in Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, two friends they had previously worked with, the plot line, such as it was, began to take shape, and musical numbers moved the story along.
The simple set, comprised of four chairs, a radiator, two doors, two windows, a calendar and a framed poster, allows us to focus on the actors and the frenzy that comes with not just the impending deadlines, but also the insecurities about what works and what doesn't. One song, "Die, Vampire, Die!," with Susan Blackwell as lead, gives the actors a mantra to use against their demons and inhibitions when they rear their ugly heads.
Other songs, from "Two Nobodies in New York" to "Change It, Don't Change It," make the angst real, and those in the audience who have ever had an original idea, had to make a presentation, had to come to terms with driving ambitions and dreams, can embrace this troupe and make the show anything they want it to be.
But what the creators wanted it to be, it has become: a working hit show on Broadway that has audiences rooting for its success. And the story here, which makes up the last 15 minutes of this re-edited show, is how it got to Broadway.
The secret? YouTube.
Hunter and Jeff filmed 10 episodes entitled "[title of show] is going to Broadway," and uploaded it to the video website. The happy result is that six producers backed the show and brought it to Broadway. The flipside is that this new segment is a bit slow and self-conscious. The freshness and spontaneity which characterized the original is missing here, and that's a bit disappointing. But only a bit. Because [title of show] is more than about writing a show.
This little musical gives a new twist to achieving your American Dream, whatever that happens to be. For Hunter and Jeff, it's about a Tony. And we hope they win. In many ways, their success is a trigger for our success. That is, if they can do it, we can do it too, because we Globalization 3.0 people are the ones who make it happen.
Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus
"The wit and energy of its execution and the warmth of its performers keep the show from being a mere compendium of in-jokes and metatheatrical gags. Mr. Bowenï¿½s lyrics are often clever, his tunes ear-friendly but melodically substantial enough not to sound too wan in a keyboard-only arrangement"
New York Times
"Bowen's melodies and harmonies are gems, and his bright lyrics offer insight into everything from self-doubt ("Die, Vampire, Die!") and friendship ("What Kind of Girl Is She?") to integrity ("Nine People's Favorite Thing")." & "It has far more savvy and soul than a few flashier shows combined."
New York Daily News
"This is minimalism shoved down to the vanishing point." & "But when the self-conscious and terminally cute and the pixie-like fey are all mixed up with self-congratulatory smugness, it results in a piece of - oh, let's call it garbage. The music and lyrics are not up to much (in fact, they're up to very little), and the book - apart from the original concept of being on the musical's own assembly line - is slight."
New York Post
"A lovely and surprisingly resonant creation by composer Jeff Bowen and writer Hunter Bell." & "Director Michael Berresse magically makes the precisely-choreographed movement of his actors look completely spontaneous, which lends vivid immediacy to the production." & "A sharp, entertaining look at the agonies and ecstasies of making theater today."
"A familiar problem at birthdays is what to give the celebrant who has everything. The problem with reviewing '[title of show],' a vest-pocket and sweaty-collar musical, is what to say about a show that has nothing." & "90 minutes' worth of unremitting torture for anyone with a shred of good taste, discernment and normal eardrums."
"But the bottom line about this musical is talent: Both creators have oodles of it. Bowen's songs are sharp and witty in a conventional Broadway mode, and Bell's dialogue - which pretends to be happening in "real time," as the show evolves before us onstage - is similarly droll and topical. And both guys happen to be solid performers, as are the women with whom they share the stage." & "It's fresh, smart and funny. And those virtues are timeless."
Jacques Le Sourd
"May be small ï¿½ thatï¿½s the point, actually ï¿½ but it produces some of the best laughs on Broadway." & "The music in ï¿½[title of show]ï¿½ is no more than serviceable, but Bowenï¿½s lyrics and Bellï¿½s book are whip-smart. And the performances are totally ingratiating." & "A terrifically appealing mix of tart and sweet thatï¿½s funny all over. It deserves a happy Broadway ending."
"A slyly funny yet surprisingly sweet-tempered look at following your dreams and remaining true to yourself as you suffer _ and suffer _ the pangs of artistic creation. "
"Stands pathetically naked on Broadway." & "The backstage show by Hunter Bell (book) and Jeff Bowen (score) is revealed in all its narcissism, flaunting its shallow aesthetic values and taking unseemly pride in its inflated ambitions."