Tuners about tuners are nothing new — think “Follies,” “A 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 “[title of show],” 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 aud 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.”
Next up for Rialto advertising: itinerant TV screens.
AdScreens, a 20-pound flatscreen TV that you wear like a backpack, turned heads at the opening of Sarah Jones‘ “Bridge & Tunnel” Jan. 26. It was the end of a three-day stint for the screens, carried around the city playing hip-hop and showing clips of Jones.
Producer Michael Alden spotted AdScreens hawking wares in London and wanted to give them a try in Gotham.
” ‘Bridge & Tunnel’ is the perfect show for guerilla marketing, because Sarah reaches such a broad audience,” he says.
As guerilla goes, though, AdScreens don’t come cheap. They can range anywhere from $350 per unit per day up to $795, according to Intrance Media, the Canadian company that rented the screens to “Bridge & Tunnel.” And that doesn’t include the cost of hiring someone to carry the unit, and its battery supply, around.
But Nancy Richards, the show’s marketing director, strapped one on herself and was delighted by the head-turning epidemic it inspired.
“Michael and I believe there’s a future here,” she says. “I even went to see (Shubert Org chairman) Gerry Schoenfeld with one on.”