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‘Opening Night’ (review)

Produced by Alex Garcia, Topher Grace,
Daniel Posada, Jason Tamasco

Screenplay by Gerry De Leon, Greg Lisi
Directed by Isaac Rentz
Starring Topher Grace, Anne Heche, Alona Tal,
JC Chasez, Lauren Lapkus, Taye Diggs,Paul Scheer,
Rob Riggle, Brian Husky, Lesli Margherita

 

I love musicals: movie musicals, Broadway musicals, I even enjoyed High School Musical (don’t judge me). While none are able to capture the golden age and talent of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, some come quite close to at least being entertaining.

While Opening Nightis far from Fred and Ginger, it is surprisingly one of the most honest movies about the Broadway life. In the spirit of Noises Off, Opening Night is a love letter to Broadway’s often forgotten heroes, the stage manager.

Topher Grace plays Nick, a terribly failed Broadway actor who now works as a stage manager (at least he’s not a waiter) for the Broadway Musical, “One Hit Wonderland.” Like every failed actor, Nick struggles with commitment, has ruined his relationship with his girlfriend and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But wait…there’s more.

Just as Nick’s life is falling apart, it’s “One Hit Wonderland’s” opening night and Nick feels this is the best time to juggle his nervous breakdown, manage disasters awaiting backstage and have an Iylana Fix My Life self-evaluation at the same time.

One Night Wonder is an honest portrayal of the theater life and is an unexpected delight that had me laughing and dancing in my seat. Grace is a natural who handles the script with ease while effortlessly delivering the script’s hilarious jokes, cool one-liners and a plethora of toe-tapping laugh-out-loud musical numbers and dance-offs. Never managing to take itself too seriously, it pokes fun at the backstage shenanigans with such precision it feels more like a mockumentary in the vein of This is Spinal Tap with characters who you can find working in any musical.

Despite the movie’s large cast which includes Taye Diggs, Anne Heche and NSYNC’s J.C. Chasez, these real-life Broadway actors  adds to the story’s authenticity, while never feeling overstuffed. Expert writing contributes to the director’s ability to only focus on characters and storylines that’s needed to move the story forward. It is in this rare moment where everyone onscreen is important to the story no matter how small their role.

Adding to the movie’s charm is how in-tune the script is with its audience. The movie by a musical theater fan for musical theater fans. Yes it’s painfully corny and predictable but so are a majority of musical theater productions. People watch musicals to make them feel good (except for Dancer in the Dark) and this is actually what this musical accomplishes. While this can be a turn-off for many, this adds to the movie’s ability to have fun with its material.

For first time director Issac Rentz, Opening Night is a wonderful achievement that adds to everything that’s wacky and unique about the Broadway industry. Enjoyable and carefree, it’s the definition of forgetting your troubles, getting happy and chasing all your cares away.

 

Opening Night is now available on DVD from Wolfe Video

 

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