Saving the Show
In Isaac Rentz’s “Opening Night” , we follow Nick (Topher Grace) out of his apartment and down Broadway into the back of a theater where a new show is about to open. Nick is the stage manager with quite a back-story. We soon meet every major character that we’ll see over the next hour-and-a-half.
Nick wasn’t always a stage manager. He used to be a Broadway performer himself until a terrible opening night pushed him out of the spotlight. Now he’s managing a new jukebox musical, “One Hit Wonderland”, starring J.C. Chasez (playing himself). The show features musicalized versions of songs from pop music’s whose careers are now over. Nick’s ex-girlfriend, Chloe (Alona Tal) is in the chorus but gets bumped up to the second lead when the fading Broadway star cast in the role (Anne Heche) is hurt by a clumsy prop guy (Paul Scheer). Nick then begins to confide in close friend/performer Malcolm (Taye Diggs) while he is being pressured by the show’s producer (Rob Riggle). Nick is encouraged by the timid assistant stage manager (Lauren Lapkus) and he helps the theater’s medic (Brian Huskey) take care of Heche, the diva with a concussion.
It takes a little while to realize that the new show is not only about a jukebox musical but that this film is also a jukebox musical itself. Not only do we see performances from the new show but the characters in the film also spontaneously break into one hit wonder songs backstage. These numbers are the best in the movie and, this reinforces the idea that any good satire is powered by a true affection for its subject. There are many laughs that revolve around the scandalous behavior of the cast and crew, from sexual one-upsmanship to extreme drug abuse. However the jokes do not have the sting that should come with a bitter main character like Nick.
This is a theater kid’s dream complete with singing, dancing, vulgarity and humor. Nonetheless, the jokes are funny and often quite sexual yet there are several heartfelt and emotional scenes. The characters are well balanced and well developed and have the kind of chemistry that lets them play off of each other. The song and dance numbers are all quite good and taken as a whole, we really get a look at the corniness of musical theatre.
On the serious side, we see that Nick has commitment issues and has recently just messed up his four-year relationship with Chloe. As opening night begins, Nick is forced to evaluate his actions while dealing with the overwhelming drama that is constantly occurring backstage. “Opening Night” pays homage to musical theatre while at the same time pokes fun at all the drama that goes on behind the scenes. It can be easily be seen as a musical but also as mockumentary about what happens behind the scenes of a big show.
While it is predictable and cheesy, it works and everyone involved seems to he having a great time. Somehow the film manages to capture everything that people love and hate about theatre.