[title of show] is a “bit of a Cinderella story,” according to its co-creator Hunter Bell. “I pinch myself every day.”
The show about two gay guys (“Two Nobodies in New York”) and their gal pals who decide to create a musical just to see how far they can take it is currently being staged by Arizona Theatre Company for its regional premiere. Bell (who was nominated for a Tony Award for writing the [tos] book) and composer Jeff Bowen wanted to enter the New York Musical Festival, but they discovered that it was more fun to write a musical about writing a musical. They made themselves characters in the story, brought in Susan Blackwell and Heidi Bickenstaff as secondary characters, and [title of show] was born.
“I’d love to say it was part of a master plan and moderate a seminar on getting your show to Broadway, but it began very simply with seeing an e-mail about an original musical theater festival in New York City,” Bell said. “We used that deadline just as a way to get us writing again. We found that the thing we loved most was us writing about us writing, and writing about the state of musical theater and pop culture and art.”
The show’s success is “a combination of dreaming and working our asses off,” Bell said. He also said it helped to align with a great creative team and producers. Bell isn’t currently performing the role he created, but he’s busy helping theaters stage his labor of love. Bell said he is looking forward to seeing different takes on the show by new actors. “The great thing is that in no way do people have to mimic us or our personas. People can walk in and see any size or shape actor playing these guys,” he said. “We weren’t your cookie-cutter kind of Broadway folk.”
The openly gay Bell added, “We were really proud that we were who we were on stage. I didn’t think we were flaunting our sexuality on our sleeves. We were just our awesome, fantastic selves. After it opened on Broadway, it was not lost on Jeff or me, and it made us proud to create a Broadway musical with two male leads who are openly gay characters. It doesn’t happen that often. It wasn’t the point of the show, but it wasn’t ‘not’ the point of the show. We were just being our proud selves.”
Want more [tos]? Well, "[tossers]", look no further than the official [tos] website and The [title of show] Show channel on YouTube. The former features the hilarious [blog of show] that is regularly updated with material by Hunter, Susan, Jeff and Heidi. The latter includes [title of show] Tony fever and special guest star Cheyenne Jackson.
[title of show] is currently playing at Arizona Theatre Company in Phoenix through March 7. For more information and tickets, visit the theater's official website.
Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.