[title of show]

The ambiguity and space for misunderstanding in [title of show]’s name and concept are such that it is entirely possible it could put audience members off, but the University of Nottingham’s new production was sold out when I went along. Unfortunately, the show lacked some aspects to make it the entirely engaging 90 minutes it should have been.

An amateur musical that will provide some laughs, personable characters and some nice performances

[title of show] is the original gangster postmodern meta-musical, written by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell about their journey to get a musical onto Broadway with the help of two actress friends, in which they succeeded with [title of show]. The show is full of self-referential jokes and has many layers. While the musical theatre and cultural references might leave many audience members cold, and in 2017 feel a little dated, the fast-paced, witty nature of the show should be enough to keep everyone interested.

This production, however, felt slow and dragged-out at times. In the two main roles, Rhodri Denton and James Thacker failed to get the comic timing right on almost every occasion and their rapport seemed stiff and awkward, which made the dialogue sound stilted and strange. Dodgy American accents also distracted from the performance. While they could clearly carry a tune, both were out of their range when belting out or singing more complex harmonies. It is a shame, because there were a few moments when they got the banter just right, and these had me laughing aloud. It would be interesting to see what they could do with roles better suited to them.

The show’s saving graces were the self-described “secondary characters”. Claire Wimbush and Amy Foden boast impressive sets of lungs and are gifted comic actors who managed to rescue many scenes where their co-actors failed to pick up cues. Wimbush’s engaging performance style and Foden’s well-played neuroses brought humour to moments where it was direly needed. Their duets, as well as solo songs Die, Vampire, Die! and A Way Back to Then, were by far the most impressive vocal moments of the show. Deserving special mention is Wimbush, who gave a performance worthy of Broadway. The keyboard player also provided great comedy moments and proved himself an able musician.

Ultimately, the show was far from perfect. It seems unnecessary to describe an amateur performance as amateurish, but that is what the show largely was. Sound levels were often off and actors fumbling with microphones caused problems; the “four chairs” that provide the entire set were frequently mishandled and awkwardly arranged; everything felt a little under-rehearsed and uncertain. However, if all you are looking for is an amateur musical that will provide some laughs, personable characters and some nice performances, this show will live up to your expectations.

Reviews by Elliot Douglas


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The Blurb

Come and follow the story of Two Nobodies in New York as they embark on creating an original musical… in just three weeks! Jeff and Hunter are two struggling writers who are desperate to make their way to success. With the help of friends, they decide to create a musical based on their own experience of writing a musical, to be judged at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. From the start of the Untitled Opening Number all the way to the Finale this show is sure to make you laugh out loud with its self-referential humour.