Thursday, August 04, 2011

One Night Stand (Movie Review)

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Cheyenne Jackson
Photo: Kerry Long

If you are at all interested in musical theatre you must see One Night Stand, a documentary about four short musicals that are written, rehearsed, and performed in 24 hours. Both a record of an insane challenge and a microcosm of the creative process, One Night Stand is fascinating, elucidating, suspenseful, and very very funny.

The movie starts with the creative teams being assembled. Composers, lyricists, and book writers who have never worked together (or even met) go from saying hi straight into deadline hell (or deadline heck; while some people take the pressure hard, others seem unruffled). We get to watch each team struggle to come up with a plot and three songs in a matter of hours. Then the shows are handed over to the casts, who also have only hours to learn dialogue and songs and maybe even make sense of what they are doing. The directors help as much as they can, but the goal isn't art--it's survival. All too soon, it's curtain time, and damned if these amazingly talented people haven't come up with four amusing, clever shows!

The writers of these musicals include Brian Crawley, Gina Gionfriddo, Rinne Groff, and Jonathan Marc Sherman. The composers include Robin Goldwasser and Julia Greenberg, Lance Horne, Gabe Kahane, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The directors include Trip Cullman, Sam Gold, Maria Mileaf, and Ted Sperling. And the performers include Roger Bart, Rachel Dratch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Mandy Gonzalez, Cheyenne Jackson, Capathia Jenkins, Richard Kind, Michael Longoria, Theresa McCarthy, Nellie McKay, Scarlet Strallen, Marnie Schulenburg, Tracie Thoms, Tamara Tunie, and Alicia Witt.

As for the documentary itself, directors Elisabeth Sperling and Trish Dalton do a nice job of showing us the process and its results, and they allow us to get a sense of the different participants' characters. I wish the movie were longer (how often does one say that?) and that all four musicals were shown in their entirety (DVD extras, maybe? Pretty please?). But all in all, this movie is a gift to anyone who loves musical theatre.

(DVD screener.)

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