[title of show] – a show within a show within a show

What do a cereal box and the upcoming Vancouver production of [title of show] have in common?  If you’re actor Greg Armstrong-Morris, it’s how you help explain what the musical is all about.  That, and give yourself a headache.

[title of show] director Mike Mackenzie and actor Greg Armstrong-MorrisA “show within a show within yet another show”, the Tony nominated [title of show] tells the story of two friends, Hunter and Jeff, who decide to write a new musical in only three weeks.  Not sure at first what to write about, they eventually land on the idea of writing about what to write.

“Let me try a different analogy: it’s like a cereal box,” explained Greg Armstrong-Morris (right in photo) who plays the role of Hunter.  “Sometimes I’m the guy holding the cereal box.  Sometimes I’m the guy on the cereal box that is being held by the first guy.  And sometimes I’m the guy on the cereal box that the guy on the cereal box that is being held by the first guy, is holding.  Can I stop thinking about it now?  My head hurts.”

A fan of the musical for some time, director Mike Mackenzie (left in photo) remembers reading about [title of show]’s first production at the New York Music Theatre Festival in 2004.  With its simple set and lack of big dance numbers Mackenzie thought it a refreshing change from the musicals typically seen in Vancouver.

“The score is great, and the book is hilarious – and knowing that I was going to get to work with this cast and artistic team was just icing on the cake. It’s not often you find a show that is so insanely funny that has such an uplifting message.”

As musicals go, [title of show] is pretty small with only four actors (plus an unseen voice), but for Mackenzie and Armstrong-Morris that is one of the reasons that makes it so appealing.

[title of show] uses storytelling and song as its core foundation, rather than elaborate sets or costumes,” said Mackenzie. “It shows audiences that musicals don’t have to have a big dance number or huge sets or falling snow to make us laugh, cry and think.”

Despite being a musical about musicals though, both Mackenzie and Armstrong-Morris say one doesn’t have to be a musical theatre aficionado to get the most out it.

“No more than you need to be a doctor to enjoy Grey’s Anatomy.  Or a serial killer to enjoy Dexter,” said Armstrong-Morris.

“This is truly a show for everyone – musical theatre geeks and theatre lovers will both walk away with a sore belly from laughing too hard and maybe a tear or two,” said the more serious Mackenzie.

Perhaps a little surprising is that while the characters of Hunter and Jeff are gay, that fact is so incidental to the story that it doesn’t even receive a passing mention on the show’s website.

[title of show]

“While it’s apparent that Hunter has a little bit of a crush on Jeff, romance never plays a part in the show for them,” he explained.  “They are great friends and collaborators, but it doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation is.  Gay or straight, we’ve all had times in our lives where we were told or we thought that we couldn’t do something we wanted to do. [title of show] is about overcoming that, persevering, and just doing it, no matter the outcome.”

It would appear that Mackenzie and his team takes this theme very seriously themselves, overcoming the inherent difficulties of raising the cash necessary for an independent theatre production.  Using Kickstarter, an online micro arts funding platform that puts much needed cash into the hands of artists without risk to investors, Mackenzie says the experience with Kickstarter was amazing.

“It was new to all of us, and the response was really overwhelming,” he said. “We had people donate from all over the country, and it was so easy for us to post on Facebook or email a link out to people we know. It was rather terrifying at first, as donations were slow to start coming in, but once they did start, it just went from there. We are so lucky to have such great friends and family who believe in us and what we do, and are willing to help us out when we need it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

With the financial backing in place and the cast getting ready for opening night, it is now all about bringing in the audience and, Mackenzie hopes, perhaps even inspiring someone to take up something new or something they may have, for whatever reason, abandoned in their past.

“This is not a show just about the theatre, but about creating, and not listening to those in our lives who tell us no,” concluded Mackenzie.  “This is a show that makes us want to say ‘yes, we can’”.

[title of show]
15-26 February 2011
Arts Club Revue Stage, Granville Island

[title of show] is an original musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. Best friends, Hunter and Jeff decide to write a musical starring themselves and their wacky and sassy ladyfriends Heidi and Susan. [title of show] chronicles the inspiring and completely true story of how this little-musical-that-could went from the New York Musical Theatre Festival, to off-Broadway, then finally to the Great White Way. Tickets are $25 available online or by calling 604-629-VTIX (8849).

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