REVIEW: TITLE OF SHOW (Waterloo East Theatre) ★★★★
[title of show] is a musical with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and a book by Hunter Bell which is described in the show as “a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical!” The show presents an account of it’s own creation as an entry into the New York Musical Theatre Festival following the struggles of it’s authors and their two actress friends during a three week creative period and events leading up to the show’s production. It’s a fun, joyous, four part harmonised celebration of modern day musical theatre at it’s finest. After the vast popularity of the show’s original run at the New York Musical Theatre Festival the four performers and Larry their pianist, recorded a cast recording on Ghostlight Records and created a vlog rightfully titled The [title of show] Show. With this vlog the shows fan base (affectionately known as [tos]’ers) grew and it wasn’t soon before it was announced the show had been given a Broadway run. The show was awarded Obie awards for book, music and lyrics and direction and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Book Of A Musical. While the show may have set out to “rather be nine people’s favourite thing, than a hundred people’s ninth favourite thing”, it’s safe to say [title of show] made a super-sized impact on musical theatre and the Broadway community it championed.
While at drama school, my singing teacher gave me the cast recording and told me it was something I had to listen to. He’d seen the show in New York in it’s original run at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, met the authors and was certain I’d love it. It’s simple four chairs and a keyboard allows Bowen’s score and performers to shine and with enough musical theatre references to challenge even the most seasoned Broadway enthusiast, I was instantly rapt. [title of show] received it’s London premiere at the Landor Theatre in 2013 and as a self-proclaimed [tos]’er (easy…) I was extremely excited to see that SR Productions has mounted the show at the Waterloo East Theatre.
As [title of show] chronicles it’s own creation, the characters bear the names of the original creatives. With this in mind, as “two nobodies in New York” Daniel Mack Shand and Louie Westwood play authors ‘Jeff’ and ‘Hunter’ respectively while exploiting the talents of their friends ‘Heidi’ and ‘Susan’ played by Chloe Hawkins and Malindi Freeman. As ‘Jeff’, Daniel Mack Shand offers a strong performance. Often becoming the voice of reason for his excitable friends, Shand’s true clear singing voice brings a quiet power to his adorable portrayal of ‘Jeff’. As self-described “handsome lady”, Malindi Freeman’s ‘Susan’ was equal parts awkward and brilliant. Providing off-beat wackiness, Freeman proved she could definitely take ‘Heidi’s’ nose in a cage match of noses while also delivering the harrowing Die, Vampire, Die! with an affecting truth. As ‘Heidi’, Chloe Hawkins delivers an engaging and believable performance accumulating with a ‘close-to-home’ moment with her rendition of A Way Back To Then that had the audience in tears. Louie Westwood plays ‘Hunter’ with a wonderful vitality. His vocal performance easily handles the score and his energetic performance delivers a believable American accent and dialogue pace that was the driving force of the show.
As a second production, SR Productions should be extremely proud of what they’ve achieved with [title of show]. The real star in this production is the material, Bowen’s score and Bell’s hilarious book were an ambitious choice that I feel the cast handle to the best of their abilities and I look forward to seeing future offerings from SR Productions.
[title of show] is a modern musical gem and SR Productions performance joyously celebrates the authors story while giving it’s actors various moments to shine. The show’s message of drawing confidence from your uniqueness and not letting negativity in is very relatable and this production’s charm manages to engage it’s audience throughout. A wonderful production that had this [tos]’er (easy…) sitting in the audience reminding himself why he is one of the nine people whose favourite thing is [title of show]. Let [title of show] be your rice crispy treat, see SR Productions production at Waterloo East Theatre today.
Reviewed by Stuart James
TITLE OF SHOW plays at Waterloo East Theatre until 25 September