[title of show]

SIGNING ON Bowen, top, and Bell get creative.

SIGNING ON Bowen, top, and Bell get creative.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

When [title of show] opened Off Broadway more than two years ago, its Broadway aspirations were sweet, but they seemed like part of the joke. Sure, this self-referential behind-the-scenes musical comedy was infectiously show-queen–y, catchy, well-crafted and bursting with charm, but Broadway? Well, the little tuner that thought it could, did. Good news: it hasn’t lost a jot of its bighearted, quirky brilliance.

Apart from surprise scenic effects (pure visual gravy), nothing essential changed in the transfer. References have been updated and the self-reflexive timeline now follows the story up to the Great White Way. The episodic plot is basically the making of the show we’re watching, from conception to rehearsals and opening night; the actors play themselves. We get to know book writer Hunter Bell, a frisky couch potato, and Jeff Bowen, his persnickety composer-lyricist partner. As the boys overcome writers’ blocks and daydream about fame, they are joined by large-lunged Broadway trouper Heidi Blickenstaff, and Susan Blackwell, a tart-tongued downtown performer with awesome comic timing. Bowen’s score, played on electric keyboard by affable Larry Pressgrove, is a bouncy collection of up-tempo show tunes that bring to mind Schoolhouse Rock and Free to Be… You and Me, with a dash of Sondheim’s wistfulness. Bell’s book is unabashedly jokey, but he savvily folds in issues of compromise and artistic integrity. Director Michael Berresse keeps the humor and pathos in perfect balance. Mainly, [title of show] is a funny, shockingly honest portrait of creativity, friendship and protecting your dreams. Welcome to the club, guys.

Lyceum Theatre. Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen. Book by Hunter Bell. With Bell, Bowen, Heidi Blickenstaff, Susan Blackwell. Dir. Michael Berresse. 1hr 35mins. No intermission.