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[title of show]

As the generic title suggests, the script is a template for creating a show—in this case a musical comedy—that was entered into the New York Musical Theatre Festival (2004) and made it to Broadway (2008). The mix of actual events and a well-disciplined poetic license make this a stellar edition to a long line of funny and touching backstage tales.

(Left to right) Keith Rabin Jr. as Jeff and Danny Harrigan as Hunter
(L to R) Keith Rabin Jr.
as Jeff and Danny Harrigan as Hunter
Photo: Jesse Hernandez
Gravity Defied Theatre gets liftoff even before the show starts, as the actors playing the original cast and themselves warm up with the pianist. Friends Jeff (music and lyrics) and Hunter (book), both gay, share a love of Broadway and decide to bring their dreams to life by creating a show.

They have only three weeks to come up with a script and four songs for their entry. They find their conversations about creating the show more interesting than the plot ideas they're discussing, so they craft the story as "two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical."

Misha Johnson as Sue, Keith Rabin Jr. as Jeff, Alaina Beth Reel as Heidi, and Danny Harrigan as Hunter
(L to R) Misha Johnson as Sue,
Keith Rabin Jr. as Jeff,
Alaina Beth Reel as Heidi,
and Danny Harrigan as Hunter
Photo: Jesse Hernandez
After the show is accepted by the festival, Jeff and Hunter hook up with friends Sue and Heidi, and the rest is history, all the way to the Great White Way. The ups and downs and reflections and celebrations are honed into a series of tight vignettes framed by phone calls and text messages, and punctuated with a pleasant array of funny and poignant numbers that, in this case, reveal the innermost feelings of the actors playing themselves, each production adding its own personal touches to the story.

Part of the charm of the play flows from Jeff and Hunter's early realization that anything they say could end up in the show, which, along with four very natural performances, brings an improvisational feel to the proceedings.

(Left to right) Misha Johnson as Sue, Keith Rabin Jr. as Jeff, Alaina Beth Reel as Heidi, and Danny Harrigan as Hunter
(L to R) Misha Johnson as Sue,
Keith Rabin Jr. as Jeff,
Alaina Beth Reel as Heidi,
and Danny Harrigan as Hunter
Photo: Brian Landis Folkins
There's a bit of Cole Porter in Jeff (Keith Rabin Jr.), who periodically corrects Hunter's colloquial vocabulary. Though he experiences the angst that accompanies all artistic achievements, Jeff is imbued by Rabin with self-confidence that augurs the project's eventual success.

Hunter (Danny Harrigan) has the irrepressable heart of all successful comedians, which, of course, tries Jeff's patience at times, yet is impossible not to forgive. Harrigan's effervescence is contagious.

The women are a crackup, Sue (Misha Johnson) with a randy notion here and Heidi (Alaina Beth Reel) with a smokey ballad there, serving up bon bons on the heterosexual side of the equation. Johnson's disarming, self-deprecating humor and Reel's megawatt smile are a perfect balance to the hyperintensity of the script team.

Midge McMoyer Smith does yeoman's work on the 88's, occasionally chipping in with an irreverent aside.

The music and lyrics are quite enchanting, offering a panoply of styles, rhythms, and moods.

Gravity Defied Theatre's delightful production of [title of show], directed by Benjy Schirm, runs through November 21st. 303-325-3959 or online at www.rmarts.org.

Bob Bows

 

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