Friday night is opening night for Title of Show at Farmers Alley Theatre in Kalamazoo. The show runs until August 3rd.
In 2004, author and musical playwright Hunter Bell wanted to submit a musical to the first New York Musical Theatre Festival. With only three weeks until deadline, he and his friend composer Jeff Bowen got to work. Instead of making up a totally new plot, Bell and Bowen used the comic chaos and witty dialogue that came out of making the very show they were working on.
The work ended up being chosen for the musical theatre festival and has been performed in theatres ever since. Rob Weiner is directing Title of Show at Farmers Alley Theatre in Kalamazoo starting tonight. He told WMUK the show has a special connection to Farmers Alley.
“Title of Show opened on Broadway six years ago this week and it closed right around the time when Farmers Alley opened in 2008. And so I just thought that was sort of karma there that show had that journey going on the same time we here in Kalamazoo in Farmers Alley Theatre were going through our little journey to start our program," says Weiner.
"And the musical speaks to artists, but it also speaks to anyone who’s ever had a dream, wanted to accomplish something, had setbacks, and then ultimately through perseverance, hard work, have the opportunity to make something special happen.”
The Farmers Alleys Production has an all-star cast. Broadway actor Eric Potter plays Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell is played by comedian and TV star Stephen Guarino, who’s currently playing Toby on MTV’s Finding Carter.
Hunter and Jeff’s real life friends Heidi and Susan are played by New York actress and WMU grad Caitlin Lester Sams and local favorite Mary Teutsch. Guarino says he actually knew Hunter and Jeff back in the early 2000s.
“We all started to share this sort of…this interesting idea about deconstructing the elements of theatre and we started to play around with those ideas," says Guarino. "And so it’s so wild for me to be now doing a show that people I knew regionally that is a tried and true production now, and to think that I kind of was aware of how they were coming up with the elements of it.”
The music in Title of Show is fast paced and packed with dialogue. Even so, actor Eric Potter says Hunter and Jeff didn’t make the melody any easier.
“Usually in a musical, one person does all the tenor line, one person does all the bass," he says. "And they’ve split it up, they both share—which is just a testament that they both have really great voices. Cause there’s some notes in this show that are way up there.”
There are a lot of references in the show that aimed at regular theatre goers. Farmers Alley even put a glossary in the back of the program. But Potter says that doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the show any less.
“Despite the fact that there are obscure references, even if you don’t understand what they are, it’s either the delivery or the context of the line. It’s still hilarious," says Potter. "And that’s I think what the charm of this show is, is that you don’t have to be a ‘theatre dork’ so to speak to enjoy it.”
Title of Show premieres at Farmers Alley Theatre in Kalamazoo Friday night and runs through August 3rd. Title of Show is not appropriate for children.