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[title of show]
MAY 4, 2012 - JUNE 9, 2012
The Broadway musical sensation about... creating a Broadway musical sensation!
Jeff and Hunter, two struggling writers, hear about a new musical theatre festival. However, the deadline for submissions is a mere three weeks away. With nothing to lose, the pair decides to try to create something new with the help of their friends Susan, Heidi and Larry on the eighty-eights. With the cast in place, Jeff and Hunter begin a conversation about what to write about. Eventually, Jeff suggests they write about what to write about. They make a pact to write up until the festival's deadline and dream about the show changing their lives.
[title of show] - taken from the space on the festival's application form which asks for the [title of show] - follows Hunter and Jeff and their friends on their journey through the gauntlet of creative self-expression. In the span of 90 minutes they write and perform their show at the festival and learn lessons about themselves as people, friends and artists.
Running Time approx 100 minutes.
Please note: [title of show] contains strong language and adult content.
[title of show] media page. Here you will find all kinds of goodies to get you in the [title of show] spirit! Explore the links and media below for some behind-the-scenes fun, and use the tabs above to check out other information about the show.
McKinley and Christine, the actresses playing Susan and Heidi, would like to introduce themselves.
Matthew and Stephen, the actors playing Hunter and Jeff, have submitted this introduction for your viewing pleasure.
See a time-lapse video of the [title of show] set being installed on Northlight's stage.
Ever wondered how a production meeting works? There is no matter too small to be brought to the creative table.
TIME OUT Interview
Time Out Chicago's Kris Vire interviews [title of show] creators Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen in this awesome piece.
It's a dream!
Cast member Stephen Schellhardt reflects on the dreams of an artist and the power of this show. Read it!
Defining Success & Finding a Way Back to Then
[title of show] Assistant Director Kirstin Franklin considers the importance of staying true to yourself and recapturing the confidence of youth. Read it!
Being That Rice Krispie Treat
Northlight's Production Assistant Victoria Jeans explores the impact of [title of show]'s themes. Read it!
A Story to Tell
Artistic Director BJ Jones is moved by the first full run-through rehearsal. He shares his thoughts on the Northlight blog. Read it!
"Just a show"?
Casting Director Lynn Baber shares her passion for this show (and theater in general) on the Northlight blog. Read it!
Who is Mary Stout?
[tos] is a font of pop (and not-so-pop) cultural references: from well-known celebrities to obscure Broadway musicals. Don't be left wondering "who?" (or "what?" or "where?") Use this guide
The cast is on its feet in these backstage photos of [title of show]rehearsal. Click here
First Rehearsal Photos
Check out the photos of the first rehearsal and read-through. Click here
Please note: [title of show] contains strong language and adult content.
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|McKinley Carter (Susan) is thrilled to be making her Northlight Theatre debut. She most recently performed her newest cabaret, "Spring Forward/Fall Back" with the Cabaret With A View series on the Millennium Park Stage. Chicago credits include: Ragtime, Something's Afoot, Superman, and Elsa in The Sound of Music (Drury Lane); John and Jen (Apple Tree, Jeff Nomination - Best Actress); Turn Of The Century, The Visit, Floyd Collins (Goodman); Forbidden Broadway (Royal George); Winesburg Ohio (Steppenwolf); Into the Woods, A Christmas Carol (Marriott); James Joyce's The Dead (Court); A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Comedy of Errors, Antony and Cleopatra, and Henry IV (Chicago Shakespeare). Regionally she has worked with First Stage Milwaukee Children's Theatre, Stage One Family Theatre in Louisville, and has spent several seasons with Peninsula Players in Door County, WI.
|Matthew Crowle (Hunter) is grateful to be making his Northlight debut with this sensational group of people. He performed on Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot, Off-Broadway in Take Me Along, and tap danced across the country with Tommy Tune in the national tour of Doctor Dolittle. Favorite Chicago credits include Tulsa in Gypsy and Patsy in Spamalot (Jeff nomination), both at Drury Lane. Other Chicago and regional credits include Marriott, Chicago Shakespeare, Gateway Playhouse, and The Arkansas Rep. Matthew is also a proud tap instructor at the Gus Giordano Dance School in Andersonville. Love and thanks to mama and papa bear and, of course, Kanny. This one is for my friends with the bravery to dream and create, regardless of the taunts and threats of ravenous, bloodthirsty vampires.
Stephen Schellhardt (Jeff) Stephen makes his Northlight debut in [title of show]. National Tours: Altar Boyz. NYC/Regional credits: The Greenwood Tree (NYMF); Laurie in Little Women (BRT - Barrymore nomination) Malcolm in The Full Monty opposite Sally Struthers, Lionel in R&H's Cinderella (North Carolina Theatre); and Motel in Fiddler on the Roof (West Virginia Public). His Chicago credits include: Koko in Hot Mikado (Jeff nomination), and Lon Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis (Drury Lane); Herman opposite George Hearn in Most Happy Fella (Ravinia); Laurie in Little Women (Jeff nomination), Sam in Shenandoah, Doody in Grease, Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Harry in State Fair (Marriott). Stephen is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. Many thanks to my incredible [title of show] family and the entire Northlight team for this opportunity. www.stephenschellhardt.com
Christine Sherrill (Heidi) Northlight audiences recently met Christine this past Valentine's Day with The Three Divas in concert. She has performed nationally as Tanya with the tour of Mamma Mia! Her Chicago and regional credits include: Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol (Goodman); Dyanne in The Million Dollar Quartet (Broadway in Chicago); Georgia Hendricks in the regional premiere of Curtains, Fraulein Kost in Cabaret (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Joan in Anyone Can Whistle (Ravinia Festival); Nurse/Actress in Hello Again (Apple Tree); Ms. Sandra in All Shook Up, Celeste in Once Upon a Time in New Jersey (Jeff Nomination), Paulette in Legally Blonde (Marriott); Lena Lamont in Singin' in the Rain (Drury Lane Evergreen Park and Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, Jeff Nomination and After Dark Award).
Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Book by Hunter Bell
Peter Amster (Director)
Doug Peck (Music Director & Pianist)
Christopher Fitzgerald (Set Design)
Rachel Laritz (Costume Design)
Christine Binder (Lighting Design)
Victoria DeIorio (Sound Design)
Rita Vreeland (Production Stage Manager)
Photos from Northlight Theatre's [title of show].
Please note: [title of show] contains strong language and adult content.
Photo GalleryClick on any image to start the slideshow
Untitled Opening Number
True grit, humor and heart in ‘[title of show]'
May 15, 2012
By CATEY SULLIVAN Contributor
“[title of show]” just may be the most self-referentially meta-musical ever writ.
Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics) and Hunter Bell’s (book) musical is about two guys named Jeff and Hunter struggling to create a musical titled “[title of show].” And while theater nerds will delight in the countless inside, (and sometimes self-described “obscure”) references to the musical theater, “[title of show]” is not just a show for Broadway geeks.
It matters not if you don’t know “Hairspray” from “Hedwig.” “[title of show]” is a delight from start to finish as it captures the agony and the ecstasy of creating art that will sell without selling out.
Don’t let the small (four characters plus a pianist) cast size and minimal set (four chairs in an otherwise empty room) dissuade you from taking in this charming, very funny, and amusingly/realistically foul-mouthed musical. The language in “[title of show]” may be blue, but it’s also undeniably authentic. Crafting a musical from blank page to staged performance is not for the faint of heart or the pure of ears.
Moreover, “[title of show]” is that rarest of rare theatricals: built from scratch, with nary a Disney movie or a comic book to provide a template.
The travails of Hunter (Matthew Crowle) and Jeff (Stephen Schellhardt) (“two nobodies in New York)” as they struggle against overwhelming odds to get their little show produced without special effects/stunt casting/a budget/dumbing it down is emblematic of the struggle of underdogs and impractical dreamers everywhere. You’re rooting for them before they get the first song under control.
The four-person musical about making a four-person musical also features the substantial talents of McKinley Carter and Christine Sherrill as Susan and Heidi, the former working in a soul-crushing day job she titles “Corporate Whore,” the latter making the grueling rounds of the audition circuit in hopes of securing an understudy/ensemble/assistant to the assistant dance captain role.
In one particularly sharp scene, Heidi describes making it to the final three for a bit replacement part in “Mama Mia,” only to lose out because the costume wasn’t in her size.
Susan, meanwhile, has the razor sharp tongue and deeply embedded cynicism of someone who has burnt out trying to get support herself in theater and succumbed to the numbing stability of a low-level receptionist gig.
Director Peter Amster elicits utterly believable and engaging performances from his cast. The ensemble nails the wry, irreverent humor of the piece but they also bring a collective passion and yearning to it.
We see these artists at their most cynical and their most inspiring. Art isn’t easy, and in creating it one inevitably encounters potentially crippling self-doubt and the lure of dubious compromises. Staying true to yourself and the integrity of your ideas is an uphill battle that “[title of show]” astutely explores.
“[title of show]” also benefits from the gifted musical direction of Doug Peck, who plays keyboard throughout and gets some of the evening’s funniest lines.
Those who know musical theater like they know how to read will find themselves laughing out loud throughout “[title of show]” Watch Carter exit midway through the piece with what is arguably The. Most. Hilarious. Sondheim reference ever.
Also listen for Sherrill’s achingly wonderful delivery of “Way Back to When,” a song that captures all the lost innocence of youthful dreams and the adult pursuit of reclaiming them. Carter is in fine voice as well, nailing both the humor and the truth of self-doubt in “Die, Vampires, Die.”
As for Crowle and Schellhardt, they play off each other with the ease and timing of a long-time comedy team — the crucial difference being their interaction never feels like shtick.
It’s worth noting that “[title of show]” comes with a built in happy ending. In real life, the show went from utter obscurity to Broadway, eventually nabbing a Tony nomination for Best Book.
That it got so far without compromise — no excising the swearwords, no over-produced production values, no cast of dozens, no Sutton Foster in the role created for Heidi —is a testament to creativity and perseverance. It also makes “[title of show]” as inspirational as it is tuneful and oh, so very funny.
Read the review on PioneerLocal.com
Theater Review: [title of show]
A slight but engaging metamusical depicts the creative process in song.
TIME OUT CHICAGO
May 17, 2012
by Kris Vire
Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell's endearing metamusical, in which two guys named Jeff and Hunter pen a musical about penning a musical, hums with quirky, off-kilter appeal, even if you won't find yourself humming Bowen's slight tunes. From the opening number (titled "Untitled Opening Number"), [title of show] drops offbeat jokes and obscure musical-theater references like bread crumbs on the trail to Broadway. But its portrayal of underemployment, stalled careers and deferred dreams makes the show relatable even to non-obsessives.
Styled as a collection of blackout sketches, Bell's self-referential book tracks Hunter (Matthew Crowle) and Jeff (Stephen Schellhardt) as they battle blocks, distractions, fear and friction in their struggle to craft a show. They're joined by pals Heidi (Christine Sherrill), a big-voiced hoofer who's trouped through the backgrounds of a pair of Broadway shows, and Susan (McKinley Carter), an arch performer who's nearly given up the biz for a hated but steady office job.
The show's first half is a tight, jokey delineation of the creative process, with Bowen's numbers providing a grown-up Schoolhouse Rock feel. The second half, which Bell and Bowen continued to expand as their play went from showcase to Off Broadway to the Great White Way, spins out a little repetitively, though it gets points for honest depictions of some ugly moments. Northlight's cast, accompanied by Doug Peck on piano, winningly sells the material with expert timing. Crowle, in particular, imbues Hunter with an engagingly squirrelly energy.
Read the review on TimeOut.com
'[title of show]' aims high, and Northlight hits it
May 16, 2012
By Scott Morgan
Accuse "[title of show]" of being an esoteric, navel-gazing meta musical targeting die-hard theater geeks all that you want. The show's original creators/performers and the local re-creators for the Chicago-area premiere at Northlight Theatre are fully aware that this modern-day Broadway musical about the creative process of writing a highly idiosyncratic Broadway musical is a fun exercise in self-reflexivity and messing around with common theatrical conventions.
If this all sounds too complicated, don't worry. "[title of show]" is an appealing musical that also comically and touchingly depicts the dreams of aspiring writers and actors who hope to hit it big on the Great White Way, while showing off the unconventional ways and determination needed to ultimately achieve lofty goals.
"[title of show]" started in 2004 as two gay musical theater fanatics and friends, the aspiring actor/songwriter Jeff Bowen and actor/playwright Hunter Bell, collaborated to write a musical about their process of writing a musical. They did so in three weeks time to enter in the first New York Musical Theatre Festival, and the musical's title came from the entry form asking for the "title of show." In the ensuing years, Bowen and Bell further developed their own story about their creative process with actor friends Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell (complete with obscure musical theater references) through multiple iterations when the show played off-Broadway in 2005 and 2006 and finally landed on Broadway in 2008.
"[title of show]" is a ground-up tale of success and self-determination and self-doubt if ever there was one. If the first half is overly cutesy in its depiction of creativity run amok in the songs "An Original Musical" and "Monkeys and Playbills," the latter half turns rather serious as the state of commercial Broadway theater comes to the fore and the friendships between the creators and performers start to fray amid talk of revisions and potential cast changes.
Yet there's an extra layer of theatricality involved in Northlight Theatre's clever take. The show's original creators/performers are played here by other actors now that "[title of show]" has been licensed out to be produced by other theater companies like Northlight. So when the show's creators come to see "[title of show]" in Skokie on Sunday, May 20, Bowen and Bell will be watching others portraying themselves onstage.
I'd like to think that they will be impressed with what they see, since Northlight's take teems with loads of affable talent. Director Peter Amster has concocted a zippy production featuring a very engaging cast.
As songwriter Jeff and playwright Hunter, Stephen Schellhardt and Matthew Crowle are respectively well-matched with their boundless enthusiasm and humorous potty mouths (a characteristic that gets introspectively examined later in the show). As their friends, Christine Sherrill impresses as the Broadway veteran Heidi with an amazing voice and McKinley Carter is quirkily amusing as the "corporate whore" who finds time from her day job to help the guys out.
Expertly backing everyone up is the accompanist and music director Doug Peck, portraying the onstage keyboard player Larry, who is cozily ensconced in Christopher J. Fitzgerald's set of a rehearsal studio.
Rather than being a musical based upon a successful movie or a string of jukebox hits, "[title of show]" is a refreshingly original work that not only reflects its time, but also shows the deep love for the art form of musical theater and the joy of creating and performing. So who cares if some of the arcane references might go over your head? "[title of show]" also aims squarely at the heart, and it hits the bull's eye many times.
Read the review on DailyHerald.com
Musical about a musical still clever despite showing its age
by Chris Jones
May 14, 2012
To put all this another way, "[Title of Show]" is warm, smart, wry, creative, melodic and surprisingly dated (that's always the risk with satire).
The advantage of that is you get a quarter of very skilled actors and accomplished singers in Matthew Crowle, Stephen Schellhardt. McKinley Carter and Christine Sherrill - Crowle is deliciously restless and entertaining and Sherrill is especially charming throughout - but they all feel a bit too polished for the actual material, which is predicated on inexperience and the hunger of youth. These folks, especially the two women, feel like accomplished theatrical pros.
The production, which is accompanied by Doug Peck at the piano, is quite witty, very nicely sung and, especially when Crowle lets lose, injected with intermittent spark.
Read the full review on ChicagoTribune.com
Clever behind-the-scenes look
THE FOURTH WALSH
by Katy Walsh
May 20, 2012
The premise is original and gimmicky. But it works! It's funny. Under the direction of Peter Amster, the quartet made it to Skokie. No longer the original players, the parts are performed by McKinley Carter (Susan), Matthew Crowie (Hunter), Stephen Schellhardt (Jeff) and Christine Sherrill. Playing the piano onstage, Musical Director Doug Peck (Larry) even gets a few lines. The ensemble yuck it up with jocular familiarity. They seem like friends. The dialogue feels completely spontaneous. And the humor is sardonic with a big slab of cheeky.
I recommend [title of show]. It's a hoot! I wish I had thought of it first. Bell and Bowen make a Tony nomination seem easily achieved.
Read the full review on TheFourthWalsh.com
[title of show] at Northlight Theatre
The self-referential metamusical's creators, Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, describe the show's unlikely journey.
TIME OUT CHICAGO
May 3, 2012
BY Kris Vire
To understand how the quirky, self-referential metamusical called [title of show] came to be, you merely have to watch its opening scene. In it, a pair of obsessive musical-theater aficionados and aspiring composers named Hunter and Jeff decide to apply to a new-musicals festival by writing a musical about themselves writing a musical to apply to the festival.
And once you've wrapped your head around that, consider that the characters of Hunter and Jeff were originally played by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, a pair of obsessive musical-theater aficionados and aspiring composers who decided to apply to the New York Musical Theatre Festival by...well, you can probably fill in the rest.
On a conference call from their New York homes, Bell and Bowen, both 40, say the inciting incident onstage essentially matches its real-life genesis: Staring down a submission deadline just three weeks away, the friends made a pact to send in whatever they came up with in that time.
"Jeff and I had worked and collaborated together before, but we had been a little dormant creatively," Bell says. "We were like, let's use this deadline to help us get off our asses and create something. And as we met, the thing that made us laugh and want to go write and create more was documenting the conversations we were having about writing, about musical theater, about our process and everything in-between." The show also featured the pair's actor friends Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell, who, like Bowen and Bell, played versions of themselves.
"I think they're kind of heightened versions of us on the stage, but they do start with the seeds of our own personalities," Bell says. "And then there are things that-we call it ‘real Hunter' and ‘real Jeff'-would never do but are consistent with the characters' arc in the show. So it is a combo platter."
[title of show]-the name taken from NYMF's application form-was a hit at the 2004 fest. Encouraged, Bell and Bowen continued to develop the material, working with Blickenstaff, Blackwell and director Michael Berresse; an expanded version got a commercial run Off Broadway in 2006. That run and the cast recording that came with it gained the show a small but loyal following, yet the creative team was unsure of the next step. YouTube was just taking off, Bowen notes, and they owned full rights to the characters they'd created.
"We had all gone to Susan's house one day and watched The Secret on video, and we were like, ‘Oh, that's funny, we should just say that we're gonna go to Broadway,' " Bowen says. "Just say out loud our goal and our destiny and see what happens."
Thus was the [title of show] show born, a YouTube series about the fake Hunter and Jeff's journey to Broadway. Its rapidly growing fan base sparked enough interest from producers to get the real Hunter and Jeff a brief, unlikely Broadway run in 2008, just long enough to earn a Tony nomination for best book.
And now [title of show] is receiving productions around the country, such as Northlight's Chicago premiere this week, which the creators plan to see. "There's a little window of surrealness," Bell says of seeing other actors such as Northlight's Matt Crowle and Stephen Schellhardt play their characters. "But a lot of people don't know the background. They just have their season subscription, and they go and see a show about Hunter and Jeff."
Read the story on TimeOutChicago.com.
The trials of teamwork at Northlight
May 8, 2012
By TOM WITTOM Contributor
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.' "
Read the story on PioneerLocal.com
STUDY GUIDE | The [title of show] study guide is available in PDF format. Click here to download.
GLOSSARY | Northlight Theatre's Guide to [title of show] References is available for download here.
STAGEBILL | View the [title of show] stagebill online.
Please note: [title of show] contains strong language and adult content.