From left: Lukas Tomasacci (Hunter Bell), Wendy Popeck (Heidi) Meaghan Fadden (Susan), and Nick Klem (Jeff Bowen) in rehearsal for (title of show), running Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10-12. Call 955-1455 or email email@example.com for more information. A pay-what-you-can preview performance will be offered Thursday, also at 7:30 p.m. PHOTOS BY ALICIA GREGA.
Gaslight Theatre opens meta-theatrical (title of show)
The greatest disincentive to artists struggling to create in the 21st Century is the adverse decree that “it’s all been done.” Just how hard is it to be original in these derivative days? Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell’s (title of show) is a self-aware case study of its creators quest to “dream the impossible dream.”
It’s the third production the Wilkes-Barre-founded Gaslight Theatre company will present at Scranton’s Mellow Theater and notably more upbeat than its previous Lackawanna County offerings — Quiet Cowboy, an original work by Gaslight’s own Matt Hinton and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The small-cast, keyboard accompanied (title of show) was also a good fit for the holiday-heavy rehearsal period, director Christina Reynolds offered at a rehearsal this weekend. She first saw the show in New York City in 2008 after reading about it in a magazine.
The 90-minute musical is about its authors, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, writing a musical. And, not just any musical, but the musical the audience is actually watching.
“It’s harder to describe than it is to take in,” actor Meaghan Fadden said. Fadden plays Susan, one of the two actress friends Bowen and Bell wrote into the original production of (title of show), in which they also performed as themselves.
“To simplify it, without getting into the meta aspects of it,” Reynolds clarified, “it’s about four friends on a journey toward their dreams. And that’s something that is very relatable.”
If you’re wondering why Bowen and Bell decided to confuse newspaper editors across the country with the title (title of show), don’t worry, there’s a song about that. Musical director Aimee Radics is playing Mary, a feminized version of musical director Larry Pressgrove, who was also part of the original (title of show) productions. She’s used to performing in the pit or behind a scrim but is enjoying this unique opportunity to interact with the cast on stage.
“The music is contemporary in feel, but I would not call it pop,” Radics said. “It’s an homage to the Broadway musical, and so these are not radio songs, but musically, they are very accessible.”
“And they all go through such great lengths to move the plot forward. They’re not just flashy songs. They tell a certain story,” added Kings College student Lukas Tomasacci who plays Hunter Bell.
It’s a witty story, rich with theatrical references. The song “Monkeys and Playbills,” for example, was inspired by Bowen’s collection of playbills from Broadway flops. As part of its research to play these actual people, the Gaslight cast viewed a YouTube series of video episodes of “the (title of show) show,” tracking the original cast’s quest to get its work produced.
“They just kept saying ‘(title of show) is going to Broadway even though they didn’t have a theater yet, they didn’t have a producer — they didn’t have all these things solidified. And so that’s discussed in the play as well,” Wendy Popeck (Heidi) said.
The writer/actors enjoy a cult-like following and are very active on social media, where they recently raised $90,000 for a forthcoming project via kickstarter.com. The real Susan (@Susan_Blackwell) sent an encouraging reply to Fadden (@MK4Peace)’s recent tweet about Gaslight’s production in which she not only tagged the other original cast members, but also her friend Stephen Karam (@stephenkaram), a successful playwright born and raised in Scranton.
“This is a personal bucket list show for me,” Fadden grinned. “To do this role in this show in this space. It’s a big checkmark on the list of awesome things I’ve done.”
(title of show) runs Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10-12. Call 955-1455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. A pay-what-you-can preview performance will be offered Thursday, also at 7:30 p.m.