Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen’s meta musical was a lasting final tribute to the Black Box.
by Zoe Case
Five members of Brave Potato Productions took the final bows in the Black Box’s theatrical history last Saturday night.
[title of show], the student-run theater group’s latest musical, will likely be the last performance in the Black Box; the College plans to demolish the building this coming summer.
The meta-theatrical musical follows two friends trying to write a Broadway musical in three weeks. Written by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, the show centers on characters Hunter and Jeff, played by Henry Quillian ’17 and James Wojtal ’18, respectively. Quillian and Wojtal voiced their parts brilliantly. Their harmonies, with Quillian’s strong baritone and Wojtal’s brassy tenor, filled the close space of the Black Box.
The musical’s production outshined its vocals, as [title of show] shattered musical theatre tradition. “I wasn’t sure I understood the conventions of musical theatre enough to direct this show,” Abby Armato ’17, the show’s director, said after the matinee on Saturday. One scene in particular appeared to require a lot of research and dramaturgy, because it referenced obscure Broadway musicals one after another. Armato pulled this effort off spectacularly, using playbills to visualize each play referenced.
Chandler Davis ’17 played Susan and Mariah Palumbo ’19 played Heidi — the two women who collaborated with Hunter and Jeff on the production of the show. Davis and Palumbo balanced out the voice ranges of the cast. Davis was particularly strong in her song “Die, Vampire, Die,” in which she expounds upon the multiple doubts that come with writer’s block.
Kraig Davis ’18, the keyboardist in the corner, occasionally participated in the show and interacted with the other characters, but most of the time was ignored entirely, as convention would dictate.
The production benefitted from the throwback Broadway choreography of Kate Markey ’16. Markey felt obliged to put a kick-line in the musical as a nod to classic Broadway choreography, and the dance move popped up first in “Untitled Opening Number,” the metafictional title of the opening number of the show.
The staging broke standard musical theatre rules in big ways. There were scenes in which Jeff would roll his chair across the stage into Hunter’s room, even though the two were having a phone conversation from across New York City. Consistently breaking the fourth wall highlighted the cast’s comedic strengths.
“We could not have done this show anywhere else,” Palumbo said. The set comprised of four chairs, a table and a keyboard — a larger location would have swallowed the minimal set. It was fitting that the Black Box’s final show paid homage to the challenges of small theatre.
“I will chain myself to the vault,” Davis joked in reaction to the former bank’s impending demolition.
All that can be said is goodnight, sweet Black Box — and what a way to go.
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