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June 23, 2017

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What's the 'title of show'?

When it comes to Broadway musicals, you might think of "The Lion King," "The Phantom of the Opera" or "Cats" — big productions which involve a great number of performers, as well as a full set. Come see '[Title of Show]' and it could well broaden your definition of musical theater. The 90-minute off-then-on-Broadway musical makes its Taipei debut tonight for a five-performance run.

Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen are two nobodies who decide to write an original musical to submit to the New York Musical Theatre Festival. The deadline is in three weeks so they end up writing about themselves — about how two guys create a musical with the help of their friends, Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff.

The deadline is pressing and none of them come up with a brilliant idea for the title. Therefore they decide to leave the title-of-show field on the application form as it is, making this meta-musical very self-conscious, beginning with the title.

"I think this show has a lot of feelings because it is so small and because it started in such a real place. It is really honest and really natural," said Brook Hall, director of the show and Ripple Productions LLC, during the rehearsal.

"Many, many people have ideas, and the fact is that these four people who wrote this show started with nothing — no stars, no huge set, no money and no chance. It just grew because they were really funny and smart and it really touched me," Hall added.

Mandy Roveda (Susan), Brandon Thompson (Hunter), Cat Tsai (Heidi) and Ming Lee (Jeff) are partners Hall found to put the show together in Taipei, along with piano virtuoso Holy Chang, who plays keyboard in the show.

"In our show, in rehearsal, we kind of become the story, become a family," explained Hall. "Everybody has other jobs. Taipei is not like New York, where you can be a full-time actor. Everybody gives their time and it takes a lot of time."

For example, Lee is an air traffic controller who often works at night. "My character, Jeff, makes a living as a webpage designer. Writing songs is something he likes to do. I am just like that — having a job and a passion. Therefore I feel like I'm starring as myself. The story resonates well with me because it truly reflects theater people's lives," he said.

As for Hall, an experienced Broadway actor and seasoned dancer who has stayed in Taiwan for almost 10 years, this is a special moment he has been waiting for.

"Even if we touch just a small number of people, I think it would have some influence in the community. My company is called Ripple, and together with Cat, we started a theater company called the Butterfly Effect. It starts really small and it makes waves; we will see," he concluded.

Bringing in a fully licensed, small-scale and interesting musical comedy is something new, as well as its showing location, the Central Motion Pictures Company Building (中影商業大樓). "[Title of Show]" will be the first of potentially many theatrical events in its over 500-seat auditorium. The show will be performed in English with Chinese subtitles. ■

► 'Title of Show' (演出名稱) ► 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12-14 (Fri. ~ Sun.) / 2:30 p.m. Oct. 13-14 (Sat. ~ Sun.) / Central Motion Pictures Company Building (中影商業大樓) / 3F No. 260 Section 2 Bade Road, Taipei (台北市八德路二段260號3樓) / NT$650 /

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