This is probably the definitive example of a show that think’s it’s funnier than it actually is. It consists of nothing more than a staged reading of a fictional Broadway show, with two actors talking to the audience and performing parodies of common Broadway song types. This kind of bare-bones presentation can only work if the material is exceptionally strong, and frankly, it’s hard to imagine material weaker than this.
The show is so relentlessly self-referential and ‘ironic’ that it has absolutely no content beyond its jokes, and these jokes are so witless, heavy-handed and painfully unfunny that they would probably have been deemed too stupid for the Young Frankenstein musical. The songs are uninspired as satire and feature idiotic lyrics, and the speeches delivered to the audience between them are unpleasantly smarmy and condescending. I realize the fact that the fictional show being presented is terrible is meant to be the point, but the result isn’t funny, just annoying, which raises the question of exactly who they thought wanted to see this.
In addition, much of the humor is in extremely questionable taste, with running jokes about dead babies and the Holocaust. It’s possible to make this kind of thing work, but only if you’re as hilarious as The Producers or Book of Mormon, and this bit of inane off-Broadway dithering isn’t even in the same universe as those works. In this case, the result is just gratuitously unpleasant and kills what little humor potential there might have been in the first place.
The two lead actors, Christopher Fitzgerald and Jeremy Shamos, had both given good performances in other things; Fitzgerald in particular was excellent in such shows as Wicked and Sondheim’s Saturday Night. But here, they aren’t really acting, or even playing comedy…they’re just making asses of themselves. There’s an abundance of silly voices and hammy line readings, but it doesn’t make you want to laugh so much as want to slap them.
On top of the fact that this show seems like it was created on a bet to make the most worthless musical of all time, perhaps the biggest problem with the show is that this particular joke…a fourth-wall-breaking satire of modern musical theater…has been done a whole Hell of a lot in the last decade or so, and nearly always better than it’s done here. I’ve been pretty harsh on the bitter invective that the Forbidden Broadway series has devolved into in recent years, but I’ll readily admit that even that franchise’s worst incarnations were at least funnier than this.
In addition to this show’s obvious debt to Forbidden Broadway and its striking similarity to the later <Title of Show>, there was an unrecorded 2000 off-Broadway musical called The Big Bang that had exactly the same premise as this show (two creator-actors playing all the parts in a backers’ audition for their new show), only with better jokes and better music. So this show is witless, uninspired and redundant, and I imagine it would be a legendary disaster on the level of the worst musicals of all time if it hadn’t proven to be so damned forgettable.