Four Gifted Actors Perfect In '[title of show]'
NEW MILFORD — TheatreWorks New Milford's summer fare is a musical rendition of a slice of the lives of the four characters who seemingly create the work on the spot. It is funny, charming and unusual.
Under the direction of Alicia Dempster, [title of show], with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and book by Hunter Bell, recounts the creation of a musical by two young writers, with the help of two friends. The musical is about their experience in the process, as they bring their everyday lives, fears and dreams into focus for the purpose of winning a festival.
Almost as a lark, friends Jeff (played by Michael L'Altrella) and Hunter (Rob Bassett) undertake the writing of a musical, in three weeks time, to enter it into a competition. Engaging two friends, Heidi (Ashley McLeod) and Susan (Carey Van Hollen), the characters find themselves mining their own experiences not only in the writing of the musical but also the ways in which they hold on for their big break. Their fears, humiliations and moderate successes are all fodder for this creation.
With an almost Seinfeld-style examination of their everyday lives, dry wit and innuendo abound. Musical numbers underscore the challenges, both internal and external, faced by those trying to make a living in the theatre. Songs such as "Die Vampire Die" and "Monkeys and Playbills" define the difficulty in unleashing creativity in the face of internal demons and doubts.
As their musical is met with success, the team of four is confronted by further obstacles as they try to maintain their own integrity and authenticity. Should they sell out for fame and fortune? The lovely number "The Way Back to Then" speaks to the joy of acting and the manner in which success can adulterate that simple pleasure and passion. This song in particular felt like a call to community theater, which offers a return to that thrill sans the commercialization and pressure.
All four players are vocally gifted and talented actors.
Carey Van Hollen is always excellent. She is convincing as she tackles this role of the bored, somewhat jaded Susan, who is also the a realist. Ashley McLeod sports a vulnerable innocence as her character commits to the project. She also has a strong belting voice.
Rob Basset is fun and funny as Hunter. He projects a lackadaisical attitude and sharp wit. It totally works for his character.
As the web designing musical theater wannabe, Michael L'Altrella offers a sincerity and earnestness which contrasts perfectly with Hunter's lassitude.
With its obscure references and observations, this play accurately reveals the complete immersion those struggling on the lower rungs achieve. This is wonderful musical fare for all, yet most especially those with an appreciation of artistic dreams. It is entertaining and moving to watch. The opening night audience supplied a well earned, robust reception.
(Performances continue weekends until July 31 at TheatreWorks New Milford, 5 Brookside Avenue in New Milford. July 15 to 31. For tickets or additional information visit theatreworks.us or call 860-350-6863.
This play contains "strong language and adult situations," according to the theater company's website.)