The trials of teamwork at Northlight
"[Title of show}" cast members ae Christine Sherrill (from left), Stephen Schellhardt, McKinley Carter and Matthew Crowle with Doug Peck at the piano. | Photo by Michael Brosilow
‘[title of show]’
Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. (May 29 only); Wednesdays at 1 p.m. (except May 23) and 7:30 p.m. (except May 30); Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m. (except May 11 at 7:30 p.m.); Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. (except May 13, 20 and June 10).; through June 10
Tickets: $25-$65; Young Adult tickets (25 and under) $10
(847) 673-6300 or visit www.northlight.org
Salon Series, a panel discussion led by local experts, will be held at 1 p.m. May 20. Reservations are required; call (847) 679-9501, ext. 3555
Updated: May 8, 2012 6:44PM
Musical theater has long had its share of great composer/lyricist songwriting teams, from Gilbert and Sullivan to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Kander and Ebb.
Mining the joys and pitfalls of theatrical teamwork, contemporary collaborators Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics) and Hunter Bell (book) bring us “[title of show],” a musical comedy about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical.
In “[title of show],” Hunter and Jeff are the characters who mimic the real-life struggles of Bowen and Bell as they frantically work to create a musical in three weeks that has to premiere at a new theater festival.
The show, which played off-Broadway in 2006 and had a successful Broadway run in 2008, makes its Chicago-area premiere at Northlight Theatre through June 10 under the direction of Peter Amster, who previously oversaw “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Mystery of Ivma Vep” and other productions here.
“The piece is very clever,” said Amster. “It has all kinds of wonderful winks and nudges towards Broadway and the writing process. All the characters are funny: Jeff, the composer, and Hunter, the book writer, and their two actor friends, Susan and Heidi. Stuck for a topic, they decide on subject matter that’s readily at hand: ‘Why not write about us writing this musical?’ ”
Broadway buffs and musical theater enthusiasts alike will find the banter especially delightful, Amster said. “But audiences don’t need to know any of the references to the Broadway musical scene to enjoy the show,” he added. “ ‘[title of show]’ will appeal to anyone who has a dream.”
The show covers the travails of the creative process, self-doubt and inertia and the many tests of the bounds of friendship.
According to Amster the universal truth Hunter and Jeff discover is how the two, by working together as friends, achieve something far greater than the sum of its parts. “That, I think, is a concept anyone can relate to, no matter what they are pursuing,” he said.
He cited a song in the musical, “Die, Vampire, Die,” in which vampires are the things that keep people from accomplishing their goals — little voices in one’s head that say “you’re not good enough or smart enough” — all those insecurities that stand in the way of creating something new.
Amster speaks highly of his cast. Matthew Crowle, Stephen Schellhardt, McKinley Carter and Christine Sherrill, he says, are “phenomenal.”
The four are an ideal fit for the show. “It’s pleasing to have these seasoned, talented artists, all of whom have brilliant voices, wonderful personalities, great funnybones,” he said. “They inhabit these characters like they were putting on silk gloves.”
Five-time Jeff winner Doug Peck serves as music director and pianist for the show, which runs about 90 minutes and is performed without intermission.
“[Title of show]” is a modest, inspiring work, more or less summed up in one of its songs, “Two Nobodies in New York,” that dreams of taking a little show all the way to Broadway.
“With its surprising message and tug-at-the-heart feeling,” observed Amster, “I call this ‘the little show that could.’ ”