Loving musical theatre is never enough when it comes to writing musical theatre, as this quirky, self-referential, ever so twee, yet clever little revue resoundingly proves: the title in brackets represents the space on the form for an unwritten entry in a new musical competition.
No title, no music, no script, no chance; yet in just over 90 minutes, we have 18 sprightly new songs (by Jeff Bowen) and a story of sorts (by Hunter Bell) about not writing a successful new musical that, despite a good review in the New York Times (this did happen to [title of show] in 2004), and talk of a Broadway transfer, subsides into oblivion.
Like so much of today's new musical theatre, [title of show] will play to a small coterie audience in a tiny space and not care a fig: the most heartfelt anthem is that of wanting to be nine people's favourite thing rather than one hundred people's ninth favourite thing, a show written by "two nobodies in New York" (title of song) who want to be "part of it all" (title of another song).
Jeff (Simon Bailey) and Hunter (Scott Garnham) rope in Mamma, Mia! failed-audition songbird Heidi (Sophia Ragavelas) and vampish, long-skirted Susan (Sarah Galbraith) to make something up that will be a success ("Not a big mess, like Chess") on the principle that anything would be better than Carrie or Shogun: The Musical.
This cheeky negativity takes the show into Forbidden Broadway territory, but its satirical aim is not so sure. Also, it's dated. Few people now think that Chess is a total mess, or indeed that Merrily We Roll Along is a flop (though technically, it still is).
And maybe someone will clue me up on why the notion of Betty Buckley on a unicorn is funny, or why the rhyming exchange, "That guy in the red shirt is straight"; "So is spaghetti till it's hot and wet" has them roll rolling in the aisles. I was still trying to pitch my tent when everyone else had struck camp.
Paradoxically, given that caveat, I liked the sharpness, bitchiness and self-knowingness of the evening, and the literacy in both lyrics and music, much of which starts out like Sondheim but soon settles into its own self-parodying neutrality; there's no danger of [title of show] becoming an accidental hit, like Rent.
The performers are all adept and likeable, especially Bailey as Jeff, who has a tousled, surprisingly heterosexual charm about him. And there are several delightful pop-up moments from moon-faced musical director Michael Webborn sitting expertly at his piano on the side.
Come on our hosted WhatsOnStage Outing on 6 September 2013 including a top-price ticket, a FREE programme and access to our EXCLUSIVE post-show meet & greet with the cast - all for £15.00!