Signature Theatre's [title of show]

[title of show] is a musical with a lot of hype. When it was off-Broadway and on Broadway, its fans, known as [tos]ers, were inordinately enthusiastic. They were sure to tell everyone how great the musical was, and decried the fact that it wasn’t selling tickets fast enough to stay on Broadway. So there’s a lot of hype surrounding the piece, and, in my mind, the actual show doesn’t live up to it.

The show is cute and amusing, but not nearly as clever as it claims to be (and trust me, I’m a huge theatre nerd, so it’s not like I didn’t get the jokes). The main problem is that it is a musical about writing a musical trying desperately not to be derivative. But every student in playwriting 101 writes a play about writing a play. They are by nature derivative. They are what you write when you can’t think of anything else to write. And they are always, always filled with awkward lines like, “I don’t want to be derivative.” and “Will anyone care about what I have to say?”

[tos] only manages to rise about the genre in a couple of all too brief moments. “Die Vampire Die” and “A Way Back to When” seem to hint at something deeper, but these messages never get pulled fully into the show as a whole.

I also find problematic the piece’s insistence on its truthfulness and adherence to the writers’ experience. There is an entire section where the characters are freaking out about whether they will have to replace Heidi when the musical transfers. But the original Heidi was a replacement for the girl they had involved before her, so it just seems silly.

None of this is a knock on the foursome that Signature has assembled. Indeed my quibbles are entirely with the writing, and not with the considerable talent and energy of James Gardiner, Sam Ludwig, Erin Driscoll, and Jenna Sokolowski. These four perform with a lot of charm and aplomb. The evening is pretty enjoyable due to them, but I think they are all better than the material.

This is further demonstrated by the video blogs. In a hat tip to the original show, Signature’s cast has created a series of video blogs. The original creative team and cast of [tos] did the same as a way to drum up interest and support. Frankly, Signature’s videos are much more entertaining.

3 stars
Through June 27


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