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OPENING NIGHT review



2017
Directed By: Isaac Rentz
Starring: Topher Grace, Anne Heche, Alona Tal, JC Chasez, Lauren Lapkus, Taye Diggs, Paul Scheer, and Rob Riggle

A Stage Manager has one of the most difficult and underappreciated jobs in a theatrical production. Its a nebulous position where an individual acts as assistant to the director and production staff during the rehearsal period and then runs the production during the actual performance. Nick (Grace) is a former Broadway Actor turned Stage Manager who is running the opening night performance of "ONE HIT WONDERLAND." A musical that's something like A CHRISTMAS CAROL filtered through the artistic integrity of a THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC vol. 16 CD. Nick best sums up this play when he says "who wrote this shit."

Nick's inability to admit he is still in love with Chloe (Tal), a year after he broke up with her, and paralyzing stage fright have left him cynical and broken. He masks his fear with contempt and a general above it all attitude that (oddly enough) makes him a really good stage manager. He's calm in the face of dysfunction and chaos, dealing with everything from death to drug addiction with grace and poise. 

It's hard to tell what the exact plot of "ONE HIT WONDERLAND" is, but from the few scenes we do see, its clearly a story that Nick relates to and thereby dismisses. Its nothing more than shielding, cheap transparent armor he wears to protect himself from his vulnerability. It's a silly musical starring "the other" member of N'SYNC (Chaesz) but for Nick it cuts a bit too close. He sees himself as a one hit wonder, who blew his big shot. He had a chance at both personal and professional success and he dropped the ball. 

While Topher Grace is the lead of OPENING NIGHT, this is an ensemble film where even the most minor characters are given moments to shine. A majority of the characters here appear to be paper thin at first but as the film goes on we see depth in even the most absurd characters. The exception to this is Mr. Goldmeyer (Riggle) who is truly an exercise in one dimensional caricature, and one of the funniest performances I've seen this year. It should also be noted that Anne Heche, Taye Diggs, and Paul Scheer are all wonderful in the film. They embody their characters with a perfect blend of humor and humanity that's rarely seen. The casting here is impeccable from top to bottom. 

OPENING NIGHT is a film about facing fear and overcoming the obstacles we place in our own way. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE WIZARD OF OZ are ostensibly about the same thing but Rentz has injected his story with vibrant characters that make the film original and fresh. This is a film that will make even the most hardened cinema goer smile. I was delighted to spend 83 minutes in this world and can't wait to see what Rentz has in store for us next.

OPENING NIGHT will be available on DVD via Wolfe Video on August 1st.



Opening Night Trailer from Wolfe Video on Vimeo.

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