Pros: A funny and knowing parody of musical theatre in a venue that I’d happily visit again.
Cons: The two halves are unbalanced and the joke that binds this together wears thin towards the end.
Anyone who understands musical theatre knows there are some basic rules. I’m sure Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote them, then no doubt copyrighted them. If so, he must be earning a small fortune in royalties from Title Of Show, a play that not only follows all the rules, but explains them to the audience as it goes. This is a play that is deliberately clichéd, corny and camp while also funny and clever.
Title Of Show is a musical about writing a musical. Jeff and Hunter (Daniel Mack Shand and Louie Westwood) are writers attempting to put together a musical to enter into an upcoming festival. Devoid of ideas they decide they should just write a play about their everyday lives. The pair don’t pick out the interesting aspects, but rather write about everything. “So if I say Wonderwoman for president, that goes in” Hunter says early on, and yes it’s in there. Over the next 90 minutes, plus interval, we watch the four cast members, plus musical accompaniment, detail the creation of the play as it slowly comes together.
It’s a clever concept, and one that seems so obvious you wonder why no one had done this before. The show is actually a revival of a 2004 play, so it has, although it hasn’t dated at all. The knowing nature of the play leads to some great theatre gags and really keeps the show flowing. There are jokes that nod to the fact musicians aren’t able to talk due to costing extra, through to physical gags with characters moving from scene to scene whilst moaning about not having the correct music to signify time passing. The songs are just as knowing. The two female actors, Malindi Freeman and the vocally amazing Chloe Hawkins, share a song called ‘Secondary Characters’ which speaks for itself, while nodding to the rule that female characters should begin wary of each other but end as best friends.
The first half rumbles along at a cracking pace, taking the show from conception to opening night. The second half moves from opening performance to their efforts to have it play on Broadway. This feels weaker, as if it was tagged on to stretch the show out to a fuller length. The running gag that everything said and done is written into the play continues, but towards the end starts to wane.
What makes Title Of Show even more worth seeing is the pleasure of visiting Waterloo East Theatre. Situated under Waterloo station, the lobby, while limited in space, is light, fresh and welcoming. The theatre space itself is comfy, in fact the chairs on offer should be compulsory in other theatres. It’s a fun modern theatre that I’d recommend to anyone.
Ultimately Title Of Show sits somewhere between cliched west-end and comic fringe. It parodies musicals perfectly, but still follows those rules a little too safely for my personal tastes. Saying that, the show is funny and clever and the cast of four plus keyboardist are worthy of the loud applause they received at tonight’s performance.
If lighthearted comedy musicals are your thing, Title Of Show (and the impressive venue it takes place in) shouldn’t disappoint.
Author: Jeff Bowen & Hunter Bell
Director: Will Keith
Musical Director: Oliver Rew
Producer: Jason Rodger
Box Office: 020 7928 0060
Booking Link: https://waterlooeast.ticketsolve.com/shows/873558804/events
Booking Until: 25 September 2016