Theater LaB's [title of show] Shows Off Ensemble's Energy And Authenticity

The set-up:

The plot is simplicity itself: How two artists sat down to create in three weeks a musical that makes it in several stages to Broadway, bringing the audience with it to cheer it on. Jeff Bowen wrote the music and lyrics, and he is portrayed by the ebullient and charming Mitchell Greco, who looks like a teenager with a mop of hair to be reckoned with. The book was written by Hunter Bell, portrayed with variety, style and unflagging energy by Corey Hartzog. They rope in two female friends to make a show biz quartet: Susan, portrayed by Danica Johnston, a tall blonde beauty with a jawline most women would gladly kill for, and Heidi, portrayed by Beth Lazarou, who brings the same sincerity and warm appeal she showed in the recent Gone Missing at Theatre LaB. The musical direction and the music is provided - and very well indeed - by Adam Stout on the keyboard.

The execution:

The pace is unflagging, the relationships interesting, the characters wildly different yet blending into a smooth ensemble both in acting and singing. Many of the obscure show biz names that are dropped will pass unrecognized, but it hardly matters. The play is fun throughout, but I especially liked the staging of "Awkward Photo Shoot" as artistic disagreements shift effortlessly into flawless smiles whenever a photographer's flash bulb goes off, and of "Monkeys and Playbills" as theatre archives are searched for inspiration. The songs are not destined to be classics, but the memory of a light-hearted, warm parable much like The Little Engine that Could will linger on.

The verdict:

The strangely named [title of show] is simply wonderful. It's a fountain of energy and talent, dancing its way into our hearts as four young performers cavort on a nearly bare stage and, in an intermissionless 110 minutes, reach deeply within to make us share their dreams and aspirations. I use the word "dancing" because they seem never to be still, their motto apparently "Why walk across the stage when you can dance across it?" Superbly directed and choreographed by Jimmy Phillips, the movements enhance the action while adding humor and authenticity. I totally believed what was happening on stage: This is rare for a musical comedy, and its triumphant success may be that it was written by two guys huddled together in a room instead of being cobbled together by a committee. [title of show] is one of the most enjoyable productions of the season - it is definitely not to be missed. Through June 12, Theatre LaB, 1706 Alamo, 713-868-7516.

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Jim Tommaney