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[title of show] At The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
Special to The Alexandria Times
April 25, 2011

(L to R) Sharon Grant (Heidi), Josh Goldman (Hunter), Scott Harrison (Jeff), and Anne Marie Pinto (Susan)

(L to R) Sharon Grant (Heidi), Josh Goldman (Hunter), Scott Harrison (Jeff), and Anne Marie Pinto (Susan)

The popular device of a play-within-a-play is taken to the third power in this cocky  musical now debuting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria.  [title of the show], no this is not my editor’s idea of a parenthetical joke, has as its theme two aspiring New York hopefuls, the author and the composer/lyricist who enter a writer’s competition at The New York Musical Theatre Festival.  It is a play-within-a-play-within-a-play.  Or should I say musical?  That our heroes are gay is incidental to their theatrical travails, but it provides some humor and background.  That they are young and inexperienced defines the complex, behind-the-scenes efforts of the post-modern playwright to bring a production to the stage.  It is the consummate guide to backstage politics and insider showbiz jargon.

Our two hipsters Hunter (Josh Goldman) and Jeff (Scott Harrison) have three weeks to pull off the impossible by writing, composing, casting, scoring and mounting a new musical.  They engage their aspiring actress/singer pals Susan (Anne Marie Pinto), gainfully but unhappily employed as a part-time receptionist, and Heidi (Sharon Grant), who has a bit part on Broadway in The Little Mermaid, in a madcap challenge to take their musical from writing to final production in three weeks.

In reality (a tricky concept to toss around in this review since there are surface realities and underlying realities) Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen are really the names of the writers of this show.  And Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell are really the names of their actress friends.  Got it?

The idea was that their four-way conversations were a great deal more inspiring than their attempts at writing.  “We could get important points across,” suggests Hunter who literally becomes a costumed blank page.  “Writing should be easy, like a monkey driving a speedboat,” he conjures.  When he struggles to put words on a page Hunter tells Jeff, “My writing is like a drag queen…fabulous at night…in the daytime…not so much!”  In fact Heidi and Hunter play a little game of making up and texting amusing drag queen names to each other…Lady Foot Locker and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion oddly spring to mind.

There are 18 terrific musical numbers in this non-stop one act that the boys hope will “get them on Ellen”, and hosts of celebrity names are bandied about as they imagine Joan Rivers, Bernadette Peters and iconic gay author John Cameron Mitchell will drop backstage to celebrate their triumph.  In a local nod they include the WATCH Awards (our local community theatre awards) in “The Tony Award Song”.

While Jeff plays the straight man to Hunter in this comedic one-liner extravaganza, (Henny Youngman where are you?), the girls alternate between insecurities and mutual mistrust in the number “What Kind of Girl is She? ”.  Look for Anne Marie Pinto with her powerful voice and wild gesticulations to rip up the stage in the rock number “Die Vampire Die”, Susan’s solution to ridding the show of second-guessing and energy-robbing self-doubt.

While they wait for the financial backing to get their play to Broadway, Hunter considers looking for a day job. “I’m down to tropical plant cleaner or donating eggs,” he mopes.  But in a mathematical calculation contrived to insure success, they determine they would rather be “Nine People’s Favorite Thing” than one hundred peoples’ ninth favorite thing.

The winsome cast sings their faces off in a host of great numbers.  Sit back and let them charm you.  And don’t bother counting the f-bombs, Hunter does it for you, they are integral to the script.

At The Little Theatre of Alexandria 600 Wolfe Street through May 14th.  For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496.

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