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Mar 18, 2015

Musical, the Musicals!

Tuners about tuners are nothing new -- think FolliesA Chorus Line or The Producers. But now you can get your musical with an extra helping of meta.

There's a new production in which a composer-scribe duo appears in their own show, chronicling the minutiae of the development process of a new musical.

In fact, there are two such shows.

Gutenberg! The Musical! a two-hander written by and starring Upright Citizens Brigade alums Anthony King and Scott Brown, just wrapped a successful three-week London run. Set at a backers audition, the comedy, in which King and Brown portray fictional creatives trying to sell their new tuner about the inventor of the printing press, has elicited interest in a return London engagement, and the writer-performers hope to find an Off Broadway berth for it, too.

And ',' which bows at the Vineyard Feb. 15, stars Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell as themselves, who, along with two actresses who also play themselves, reenact their frantic attempt to come up with a new musical in time to make the deadline for the New York Musical Theater Festival.

'These are shows about putting on shows on a more intimate level than, say, The Producers,' King says.

'There's something in the culture, with reality TV all over, of throwing back the curtains,' adds Bell.

King and Brown were inspired by King's internship at Manhattan Theater Club, during which he listened to countless tapes of new musicals, often performed, badly, by their own creators.

'There was a lot of pathos and a lot of bathos,' Brown says.

Both creative teams claim that the conceit of starring in their own show was mostly prompted by economics and logistics. 'We knew we were both available,' Bowen quips.

But backers auditions? Summer tuner fests? How far into your own navel can you gaze without becoming too insider-y to attract a crowd?

'No one is paying attention to the musical part,' says Bowen, who got a chance to gauge audIience reaction during a trial run this summer at Ars Nova. 'They're following the characters.'

As for 'Gutenberg,' King says, 'Our universal theme is idiotic passion.'

'Nature abhors a musical,' Brown chimes in. 'It must be forced into existence by money or madness.'
NY Shows

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SHOWGIRLS Reviewed by Off Off Online

Mar 18, 2015

Saga of a Stripper Suffragette
Showgirls: The Best Movie Ever Made. Ever! reviewed

Anyone who's seen the movie Showgirls knows it's easy to mock. The film's lame performances, abysmal dialogue, and embarrassing array of naked flesh make it difficult to take seriously. In fact, one could argue that because it's so bad, it would be a hard piece to satirize well: the film itself is almost a parody of ultra-racy movies of the 90's (think Basic Instinct, also written and directed by the Showgirls team).

The creators of Showgirls: The Best Movie Ever Made. Ever! bring fresh mockery to the original by introducing screenwriter Joe Eszterhas into their irreverent mix. In their production, Jackie Flynn Clarke, a feminist professor at Queens Community College, interviews Eszterhas. Jackie is a fan of the film-she sees it as a potential vehicle for female empowerment-and with the help of her husband, John Clarke Flynn, and a group of amateur actors (all recruited from craigslist), she re-enacts scenes from the film while posing questions to its writer.

Jackie clearly believes she has the gravitas of a Barbara Walters or James Lipton and treats Eszterhas with great reverence. 'You're a friend to women,' she tells him repeatedly. Interspersed with the recreated Showgirls segments are a video montage of the representations of Christianity in the Vegas performance number 'Goddess' and the movie's entire 'pool scene,' shown without dialogue but enhanced by the movie's stage directions, read aloud.

This entire setup is delivered with a delightful vulgarity. The production is certainly not for the easily offended: the film clips include nudity, and the dialogue is raunchy. The actors playing Showgirls characters reproduce their dance numbers and sex scenes with libidinous abandon (in order to produce this play, somebody watched the movie many, many, many times). Everything works because all of the performers are completely un-self-conscious. The result is hysterical.

In the interview-the show's framing device-Jackie (credited as herself) and Eszterhas (John Reynolds) strike the right balance of earnest belief in their work and utter absurdity. Jackie's character is the perfect blend of lounge singer, drag queen, and politically correct academic. As Eszterhas, Reynolds's foul mouth, exposed flabby belly, and swaggering machismo-plus his pasted-on beard and moustache-make him an uncanny likeness for the actual screenwriter.

The other member of the interview team, John Clarke Flynn (also credited as himself), has the important task of dramatically reading all of the movie's stage directions. He reminds the audience several times that 'no stage directions were changed in the course of this production.'

But the true star of the show was Lennon Parham as Nomi Malone, the 'stripper suffragette.' Parham has mastered the glazed, far-off look that, in the movie, Elizabeth Berkley passed off as acting. She even maintained her dignity when performing a lap dance to the theme song from Saved by the Bell. Her clever costume was a tight black top, worn under a pink halter; whenever the stage directions indicated that Nomi was topless (which was often), she pulled down the halter.

Her best moments were at the close of nearly every scene, when her character was supposed to emote heavily. Regardless of whether Nomi was expressing anger, sadness, or fear, Parham ended the scene with a high-pitched shriek and the destruction of a nearby object. This funny gag got funnier every time.

The rest of the cast did a great job in the supporting Showgirls roles; each actor played multiple characters. Eric Bernat brought a wonderful physical presence to Henrietta and Marty, and was perfect in his black wig as Zach (played in the movie by Kyle MacLachlan). Julie Brister was commanding as Crystal, Nomi's nemesis, and should have had even more opportunities to show off her comic talents.

Jeff Hiller was not only funny but also quite a graceful dancer. Bobby Moynihan's portrayal of Nomi's best friend, Molly, was hilarious. He foreshadowed Molly's unhappy ending with a perfectly deadpan delivery of a line that kept the audience giggling long after he'd finished.

Would people who haven't seen the film get anything out of Showgirls: The Best Movie Ever Made. Ever!? Most likely. The show opens with an extended trailer from the movie, and each re-enacted scene is a reasonable facsimile of the original. Some jokes are reserved for those who've seen the movie more than a few times: the correct pronunciation of 'Versace,' or the taxicab that appears out of nowhere.

But the live version of Showgirls doesn't satirize just the film. It takes on Hollywood's excesses, the public's fascination with celebrity interviews, and even the academic appropriation of pop culture. There's definitely something for everyone, as long as you like things extremely funny and a little bit dirty.

SHOWGIRLS: The Best Movie Ever Made. Ever.
Thursdays @ 9:30pm

NY Shows

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Mar 18, 2015

The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, sponsored by HBO, has a mission to discover, support and nurture comedic talent. Congratulations to the following UCB Theatre performers for being named Official Selections of the Aspen festival:

Aziz Ansari
Rolling Stone's 'Hot Comic' now appearing in Human Giant at UCBTLA!

Crime Scenes (Colton Dunn, Dave Hill and Brian Shortall; written by Joe Kelly)
All cop shows and action films are one small step away from being completely ridiculous. Now appearing at UCBTLA!

First Day Off In A Long Time (Brian Finkelstein)
A comedy. About suicide. Now appearing at UCBTLA!

The Patriots (Eliza Coupe)

Charlie Todd (Improv Everywhere)

The Whitest Kids U' Know (Trevor Moore, Sam Brown, Zach Cregger, Timmy Williams, Darren Trumeter)

Also appearing at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, CO March 8-12 are Upright Citizens Brigade founder Matt Besser in Aspen... On the Edge: a celebration of some of the most talked about performers from the 'Alternative Scene' and UCBTLA favorite Paul F. Tompkins in both his own featured stand-up spot and Fired! Live!: a reading of 'tales of the canned, canceled, downsized and dismissed.'
LA General

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