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Halloween: The Musical and [title of show]

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Any theater geeks? I am in the midst of music directing two shows and playing piano for both of them!


[title of show] opens Oct 2nd at the fabulous Footlight Theater at the Parliament House in Orlando, FL.


More details here:




And then for TWO NIGHTS ONLY Oct 22 and 24th, I will be presenting


Halloween: The Musical


I wrote the book, music, and lyrics of this musical comedy parody of the 1978 slasher film!




So if you're in Orlando or coming down for any of the Halloween events, check out one or both of my shows! Thanks!


[title of show] poster and info

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I wish I was heading down that way! I love [title of show] and I am a huge fan of original works!


I just finished an original play here in Nashville that went really well so I wish you nothing but the best with yoru work!

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Yes I am! Saturdays Oct 2, 9, 16, and 23rd and Monday the 25th. All the [title of show] shows are at the P House


Halloween is only on for 2 shows: Friday Oct 22 and Sunday Oct 24th.


And I'm at Hoop Dee Doo once in awhile. Been working full time at Treasure Tavern: www.treasuretavern.com

It's a new dinner theater on I Drive.


if you come to the show, PLEASE say hi afterwards!

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Our first review of [title of show] from the Orlando Sentinel:




‘[title of show]‘ from Wanzie Presents at Parliament House

— posted by matt palm on October, 3 2010 12:14 AM


Written in 2004, the comic musical “[title of show]” is a reflection of these voyeuristic times we live in.


At the movies, we watch a re-creation of the founding of Facebook. On television, we see women undergoing face-lifts on a health channel, or the vapid “Jersey Shore” gang working out and hooking up on MTV.


In “[title of show],” writer Hunter Bell can barely summon up the energy for his real life because “there’s a new season of ‘The Bachelor’ about to start.”


But Bell did pull himself away from that dating program, and the result was “[title of show].” In the musical we watch Bell and friend Jeff Bowen create a Broadway show, in fact the very show we’re watching. I guess it was just a matter of time before even the stage turned to reality programs.


Luckily, the production of “[title of show]” onstage at the Parliament House’s Footlight Theatre, makes the little story of this musical’s creation a laugh-filled ode to creativity, friendship and growing up.


In real life, Bell and Bowen wrote the basic show in three weeks to meet the deadline for a New York City musical festival. Their friends, actresses Susan Blackwell and later Heidi Blickenstaff helped develop the show, and the four starred in the show at the festival, then during an off-Broadway run.


After a self-promotion campaign on YouTube and a video blog — another sign of the times, for sure — the show had a three-month Broadway run.


Now that we’re all a little jaded by so-called “reality” entertainment, one wonders how much of the story has been exaggerated or undergone some dramatic enhancement, not that it really matters. In the show, Hunter asks if the show is too self-indulgent. Of course it is; that’s the whole point.


And much of “[title of show]” is truly funny. There is Broadway name-dropping and slams on fellow musicals such as “Shrek” and “The Little Mermaid.” And there are jokes about Times Square and a cell phone that rings with the opening riff of “Cats” to great effect.


But the deeper humor lies in the way the characters speak to each other, how they play off each other — just as friends do, yes, in real life.


Co-directors Kenny Howard and Michael Wanzie have assembled a top-notch cast. As Hunter, Kevin Kelly bursts with energy, raising an eyebrow here, delivering a witty putdown there. Rob A. Lott’s Jeff looks as happy as a kid in a candy store. Melissa Mason brings a sweet perkiness to Heidi. And long-limbed Robyn Kelly is a sarcastic ball of neuroses, worried about her singing ability, full of deadpan asides.


Musical director John B. deHaas has a pleasingly laconic stage presence and strikes a good balance between the singers and his keyboard. He can’t help that in the show’s second half, the clever songs give way to less-interesting medleys and montages that advance the musical’s tale more quickly but don’t pack the laughs — or the melodies — of the earlier tunes.


And performing in the Footlight Theatre presents some challenges as doors whoosh open and thud shut, and the sounds of dance music invade the theater. The background noise is perhaps more problematic than usual, given that all the actors but Kelly have moments when they’re a bit difficult to hear. And in this little, heartfelt show, you don’t want to miss the next funny moment.


See for yourself

What: Broadway musical “[title of show]” by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell

When: 7: 30 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 9, 16 and 23; 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25.

Where: Footlight Theater, Parliament House Resort, 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando

Tickets: Saturdays: $14 in advance at http://www.WANZIE.com/boxoffice; $16 at the door. Oct. 25: $12 in advance; $14 at the door.

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And another review or two:


[ title of the show ]

Book by Hunter Bell

Music & Lyrics by Jeff Bowen

Directed and Choreographed by Kenny Howard and Michael Wanzie

Musical Direction and accompaniment by John B. deHaas

Footlights Theatre, Orlando, FL


If you watch those old movies about Broadway, musicals come from tuxedoed men sitting around a piano peeling off hit tunes and engaging storylines while sipping champagne and plotting a victory cruise to Europe. In my humble experience, the writing process is much closer to the agony of Jeff (Rob Lott) and Hunter (Kevin Kelly). They notice a call for scripts with a short fuse, plunge into depression over the story line, and finally decide to go all post modern and write a musical about two guys writing a musical. They draft some female friends (Robyn Kelly and Melissa Mason), and soon enough, they have a hit Off Broadway, and then its one small step to the real big time: Orlando’s Footlights Theatre.


Every flaw and success in this show’ script is gleefully pointed out more quickly and accurately by Bell & Bowen than I ever could. They call their own show “Self Referential Bullshit,” but it’s the funniest self referential bullshit that I’ve ever heard. The songs are clever, scenes that go one to long abruptly stop with the comment “This scene is too long,” and there’s even a moral at the end: If you collaborate, figure out who owns what before you go too far. Success may destroy your friendships.


I admit missing most of the pop culture references, but there’s plenty of laughter for the out dated. Every song seems to sound vaguely show tune familiar, with highlights like “Monkeys and Playbills” the broke-and-must-pay-the rent driven “Part Of It All” and the touching “A Way Back To Then” which highlighted Robin Kelly, her rubbery face and underrated voice. Melissa Mason played Susan, the actual actor forced to strip on stage (boy, was THAT in the wrong venue). She’s got the better pipes, and led the writer’s block lament “Die Vampire Die.” The boys were in nearly every song, Kelly with his maniacal grin and Lott with his boyish charm, and even though they weren’t miked on opening night, they seemed to fill the room with sweet sound.


Writers writing about writing can easily head into the commode of self-indulgent self congratulation, but this show keeps one foot stuck though the fourth wall. It shows that a deep inner subtext or uplifting social commentary isn’t as important as engaging songs, funny lines and a story that feels coherent if not earth shattering. It also shows that the Footlights is capable of entertaining without wigs and falsies, packing a house and getting a standing ovation. A few more shows like this, and they can start bringing in the buses from The Villages. Nice work, Mr. Wanzie and Mr. Howard!


For more information on the Footlights Theater, please visit


http://www.theparlimenthouse.com or http://www.Wanzie.com




Theater review: ‘[title of show]‘

Posted on October 4, 2010 by Elizabeth Maupin| Leave a comment

There’s something about [title of show] that feels very Fringe.


Not Fringe in that this little musical, at the Parliament House’s Footlight Theatre, could likely turn up in Orlando’s annual spring madness – although, if it were a good bit shorter, that could very well be the case.


But Fringe in that [title of show], which is self-aware to the point of narcissism, feels like innumerable shows we’ve all seen at the Fringe, the kind in which some blocked young writer says to himself or herself, “Gee, I can’t think of anything to write about, so why don’t I write about that?”


Fortunately, [title of show] mostly gets away with it. And the Wanzie Presents production, co-directed by Kenny Howard and Michael Wanzie, mostly sails along blithely on the strengths of a charming cast and a script that aims for and pretty much conquers the nth degree of absurdity.


Composer Jeff Bowen, who graduated in 1993 from Stetson, and lyricist/book-writer Hunter Bell were, as they put it, “nobodies in New York” when they set about to enter a script in the 2004 New York Musical Theater Festival. Both had been theater nerds; both collected Playbills. They had only three weeks to write their show. The result was a musical about writing a musical, with Bowen and Bell playing themselves, two actress friends playing, well, two actress friends and a lone keyboard player sharing the stage with four mismatched chairs.


But the show took off, so [title of show] now ends not with the pair sending off their script to the festival but with its path to off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre and, for a brief run in 2008, to Broadway.


That’s pretty much what you get at the Footlight Theatre, where Kevin Kelly and Rob Lott now play the struggling lyricist and composer, Robyn Kelly and Melissa Mason play their friends Susan and Heidi, John B. deHaas is on the keyboard and the chairs are backed by a fake wall that looks as if water has been running down it for years. There’s no other pretense, really: The opening number is called “Untitled Opening Number,” and a scene ends when one of the guys says, “Right now I feel like we have to get out of this scene because it feels a little long.”


He’s right, of course, but it doesn’t much matter when the show is filled with self-deprecating wit. Lott’s Jeff – or Jeffy, as everybody calls him – nags Kevin Kelly’s Hunter for his poor grammar; the two argue about whether “theater” rhymes with “sweeter,” and Hunter gives Jeff a hard time for voicing opinions about shows he hasn’t seen. (“I have opinions about stuff I never see all the time,” Jeff replies.)


The two characters are ridiculously obsessed with New York theater: Even if you know who John Cameron Mitchell is and remember Henry, Sweet Henry (guilty as charged), you may still wonder about the dropped names of a couple of more obscure New York thespians. And Lott and Kelly bring plenty of pizzazz to their roles – found, in Lott’s case, in his essential sweetness and, in Kelly’s, in his terrific voice.


Mason and Robyn Kelly have less to do, although they present a good approximation of two actresses who aren’t much interested in each other, and Kelly’s wry facial expressions are priceless. The spunky Mason isn’t always able to make her lovely voice heard, and you’re left wanting to know a bit more about who these women are.


Actually, that feeling is a little surprising because [title of show] outstays its welcome toward the end: The show feels at least half an hour too long (and, in fact, the Broadway version clocked in at 30 minutes shorter than this one).


Part of your restlessness toward the end may be the pace, but most of it is in the nature of the show itself, which all too often meanders from one scene to the next. It’s funny to watch a couple of guys filling out their festival applications in what seems like real time; it’s less funny to hear them sing about development and photo shoots and the minutiae of getting a show onstage.


In that way, [title of show] is a victim of its own imaginative premise – sometimes hilarious and sometimes, like life itself, just routine. In theater, just like everywhere else, sometimes you have to take the bad with the good.


What: Wanzie Presents production of Jeff Bowen-Hunter Bell musical.

Where: Footlight Theatre, Parliament House Resort, 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, through Oct. 23 (also, 8 p.m. Oct. 25).

Cost: $14 most performances, $12 Oct. 25.

Online: wanzie.com.

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OK. last post!


They just published a story all about me in the Orlando Weekly:




Live Active Cultures



James Brown is gone, but if they ever crown the Hardest Working Musician In Orlando Show Business, John deHaas has to be in the running. Have you been to the Treasure Tavern dinner show near I-Drive? DeHaas is the music director there five nights a week. Seen Michael Wanzie’s production of [title of show] at the Parliament House? He’s the deadpan onstage keyboardist. Sung at Universal Citywalk’s Rising Star karaoke club? He probably backed up your baying playing the keys. If you’ve been to any attraction in town with a live accompanist, you’ve likely heard deHaas play.


So it’s no shock that Orlando’s most prolific freelance pianist has taken on yet another gig. This time, though, deHaas isn’t a hired gun. Instead, he’s calling the shots as the producer/writer/composer of Halloween: The Musical, a parody of John Carpenter’s 1978 screamer that’s carving out a two-night run at the Shakes this Friday and Sunday.


DeHaas’ show started with a rejection from the Orlando International Fringe Festival producer Beth Marshall. In 2007, with the All Hallows Fringe fundraiser approaching, John was inspired to pen a 10-minute mini-musical retelling of Halloween, a film that fascinated him with its terrors and plot holes as a kid. Marshall told deHaas that submissions had to be original works, not adapted. So deHaas put the idea in a mental drawer until he mentioned it during a conversation with Wanzie, who offered an October 2009 slot at the Parliament House’s Footlights Theater. Despite the fact that he hadn’t written the show yet, deHaas agreed. He used downtime during rehearsals for a cruise-ship gig to adapt his original screenplay, deHaas says, and compose a score for piano and cello (his first time writing for that instrument, with the aid of cellist Paul Leiner).


With director Douglas White of D-Squared Productions, deHaas staged six performances at the P-House. That initial production was exceptionally minimal, he says, and starred David Houde as the drag dopplegänger of Jamie Lee Curtis. (Heather Delmotte, an actual woman, plays Laurie Strode in the new production.)


The next step was the 2010 Orlando Fringe Festival, for which deHaas applied and received a United Arts grant. Unfortunately, the Fringe lottery landed him at number nine on the wait-list for the May event, and by March he decided to bow out and begin searching for another venue. DeHaas soon discovered that there aren’t many affordable independent venues in town. “Some wanted a ton of money ... some wanted to wait and see if their other clients [would book],” he says.


Salvation arrived via Jamie Mykins, the Lowndes Shakespeare Center’s operations manager, who discovered a two-day opening in the Margeson Theater’s calendar. DeHaas is enthused about the opportunity to work in the space, which he calls his ideal venue for the play.


Audiences wanting a foul-mouthed gore-fest should go elsewhere; like the original film, this show is restrained by modern horror standards. “I don’t think there are any bad words, [and] the goriest we get is [a victim] pulling out a red scarf when she gets stabbed,” deHaas says. Halloween groupies should get a kick out of seeing John Graham, who played Bob Simms in the original film, returning as the psycho psychiatrist Dr. Loomis, the musical’s narrator. Graham’s role has been revised to be less self-referential, but still gives the musical’s Bobby incessant acting advice, an inside joke that should tickle true fans.


Even if you don’t know the original flick, you can appreciate the range of musical styles on display in the score. Songs range from the Meatloaf “Bat Out of Hell”-inspired opening and a Music Man “Put on Your Sunday Best” spoof, to girl-group and Motown homages. And, as deHaas learned during his time with the Mama Mia national tour, “Every good musical ends with a mega-mix.” So even though the characters all die, he says they “somehow end up singing” an encore medley.


Maybe the biggest mystery is how deHaas gets away with this unauthorized adaptation. He’s reached out to Carpenter, Halloween’s original director, and received a tacit nod of approval, but rights were sold to notoriously prickly producers, the Weinstein brothers, years ago. So far, deHaas is following a friend’s advice: “The best thing to do is do the show and wait until you get sued.” That hasn’t happened yet, but if you’re looking for deHaas and can’t find him at any of his many gigs, go check the nearest intellectual-property prison.



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