Gothamist had a blast at the two shows we checked out at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. First up was Top Gun The Musical, which sent up the crass commercial tactic of taking really dumb movies and turning them into musicals. Authors Denis McGrath and Scott White were inspired by a party game where a group of friends were trying to come up with the worst possible movie musical adaptation idea possible. Apocalypse Now was in the lead, until someone came up with Top Gun.
The show sends up the commercial theatre biz by telling a backstage tale about a company putting on a musical version of Top Gun. All the familiar stock characters are here – the diva leading lady, the daft leading man, the lovelorn stage manager, the mad genius director, and the producer with dollar signs in his eyes. The characterizations are adept, with the real-life actors gleefully overacting. For instance, Sharon Heidt, in the Kelly McGillis role of "Charlie" has the hair throwing down exactly right. Best of all is Steve Gallagher as the Iceman – he takes the gay subtext from the movie and steals the show, with his advances on the Maverick character. We had a lot of fun at Top Gun The Musical. Any show clever enough to come with a death scene song called “This Goose Is Cooked” gets our attention and respect.
Like You Like also takes familiar subject matter – Shakespeare’s As You Like It – and reworks it as musical theatre. The twist here is that Rosalind, Orlando, and the other familiar Shakespeare characters have been updated to John Hughes-esque teenagers in the 1980’s. The score is loaded with period musical references like Men Without Hats and the dialogue references pop cultural touchstones such as Swatch watches and Rubicks Cubes. Our eighties obsession was in overdrive, though we were surprised that some of the pop cultural references seemed to fly over the heads of lots of audience members.
It’s clear that librettist-lyricist Sammy Buck and composer Daniel S. Acquisto have a great love for the eighties and for their characters. They have written these teens with a lot of heart. Even the bitchy girl gets an interesting treatment and transcends cliché. We hope you’ll be seeing a bigger production of this one on the baords before long. Kudos to the folks at the New York Musical Theatre Festival – we hope this will be an annual event, and can’t wait until next year. Several shows are already rumored to be going on from the festival to bigger off-Broadway runs, so the festival seems to be en route to being a great spring board for new musical works. Bravo NYMF!