Under the direction of TheatreLab Artistic Director Mackensie King, the cast consists of Zachary Gregus as Jeff, Philip Drennen as Hunter, Allie Haines as Heidi, Abby Hoggatt as Susan, and Stephen Estep as pianist Larry. Kara Hancock and Skyler McNeely serve as Swings. The artistic team includes musical director Madeline Stern and assistant director Drew Roby.
“The sentiments in this show are so valid,” says Drennen, who also serves as TheatreLab executive director. “As artists just trying to make it work and having our own struggles, we (realize) this show is still so incredibly real. At TheatreLab, we want to pick stories that shed a light on various aspects of humanity that are sometimes really funny but also sometimes really sad. Keping the authenticity has always been a really important part of TheatreLab.”
Haines, who notably co-directed TheatreLab’s terrific production of “Misery” with Drennen earlier this season, also feels moved by the show’s true-to-life appeal.
“It’s so authentic in a lot of ways, showing the true reality of what it feels like to be an artist,” Haines says. “This show will hit home for people who have performed theater, especially the insecurities. I love (being able to) connect to an authentic view of theater that’s stripped down and real. Making art is scary, stressful and amazing.”
King says the decision to stage the show inside the troupe’s rehearsal space will heighten its intimacy, impact and realism. She also gave the cast freedom to ensure their own personalities shine through.
“What’s so successful about ‘[title of show]’ in general is that it feels like you’re walking into a show that four people put together but it’s not a one-voice kind of show,” King says. “I want people to walk away knowing how much work and passion goes into art, but I also want to make sure the show feels cohesive and has each actor’s stamp on it as well.”
Organizers also describe the show as having a “Seinfeld” vibe due to its embrace of mundane observations along with its portrayal of genuine friendship.
“The conceit of the show (stems) from very mundane conversations that were put into the show,” Drennen says.
“We are all actually friends who know each other and have a lot of fun together,” Haines adds. “We’re all local artists too which is very authentic to this original story.”
Songs include “Two Nobodies In New York,” “Part of It All,” “Die Vampire, Die!,” and “A Way Back to Then.” In particular, “Nine People’s Favorite Thing,” a signature number, finds Jeff, Hunter, Heidi and Susan professing they’d rather have their show be “nine people’s favorite thing than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing,” bolstering the notion that art doesn’t have to please everybody — just somebody.
“These four people want to make it big, but they haven’t really done it on their own, so they choose to write their own show which they hope to get on Broadway and make people listen — and I love that,” says Hancock, who portrayed Amy in TheatreLab’s excellent production of “Company.” “I think too many people (believe) they have to do things a certain way. You never have to give up a dream, but you might have to give up the idea of how you get there.”
HOW TO GO
What: TheatreLab Dayton presents “[title of show]”
When: Jan. 17-28; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: TheatreLab Dayton, 116 N. Jefferson St., Dayton
More info: theatrelabdayton.org