Hit List is a show for anyone whose dreams are on the edge. With a great sound, energetic and vocal cast Hit List made it’s Off- Broadway debut at 54 Below last night, compete with book by Julia Brownell, a playwright and former “Smash” producer and interesting staging by Joshua Safran former producer of “Gossip Girl,” who took over in the second season from the show’s creator, Theresa Rebeck, along with co-director Jennifer Ashley Tepper.
This is a show that should come to Broadway or at the very least Off-Broadway with a honed in book. The writer missed what she already had
in the story, Hit List are songs composed by Jessie (Jeremy Jordan) in order to exercise the people who suck in his life. Mix that with what is here and you have a show that could run for years and years. The music is infectious and this cast superb. Krystal Rodriguez is a rock goddess waiting to be hatched. Ms. McPhee was unavailable for the concerts, so Carrie Manolakos from Wicked stepped in. Andy Mientus should be starring on Broadway but Hollywood was smart enough to snatch him up until he comes here in the revival of
Les Miz and Jeremy Jordan as always hit’s the top of the list.
Benjamin Rauhala (Pippin)was the musical director who together with Rauhala (vocal arrangements) and orchestrations by Charlie Rosen (One Man, Two Guvnors) brought a sound that was thrilling. The band includes Rauhala, Rosen, Shannon Ford, Alisa Horn, Dennis Michael Keefe and Hiroko Taguchi.
The score of Hit List comprised songs by various composers — both from the musical theatre and pop worlds. Tony Award nominees Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story, Dogfight) who wrote the captivating “Caught in the Storm,” “Orginal” and “Re-Write This Story ,” these songs are hits as is “Calling out My Name” and “Don’t Let Me Know” written by Lucie Silvas and Jamie Alexander Hartman. Joe Iconis (The Black Suits), Haddenfield had great lyric choices, as did Drew Gasparini’s (Make Me Bad), “If I Had You.” Andrew McMahon and Tony Award winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, round off the composers.
The Diva (Krysta Rodriguez) comes to Amanda’s (Carrie Manolakos) and Jessie’s (Jeremy Jordan) concert, just another fan in the crowd. She moves through the throngs, singing a cappella (“Broadway Here I Come (Pre-Reprise)”). When she reaches the front, she points her gun and shoots. Flash back to the beginning when Amanda a poor little rich girl from the Upper East Side is auditioning for a recording contract (“Good For You”). Undefined they turn her down as do her parents. Ready to end it Amanda ends up in Greenpoint (“Broadway Here I Come”) where she meets Jesse, a struggling songwriter (and recovering addict). Both stuck they sing (“Re-Write the Story”). They connect as Jesse plays her one of his songs on a bridge (“The Love I Meant to Say”). At home Jessie tells his roommate Nick (Andy Mientus) about Amanda (“If I had You.”) Jessie and Amanda watch The Diva perform on the VMAs (“Reach for Me”) and Amanda tells him of her dreams (“Original”)(very Bruce Spingsteen sounding.) Jessie who has fallen hard is devastated after they spend the night together, while he’s asleep, she steals his songs and leaves. In search for her, he learns her family believes she has finally committed suicide. One day he hears one of his songs on the radio (“The Love I Meant to Say (Reprise)”) sung a singer called “Nina,” who has come out of nowhere. Jesse knowing it is Amanda sets out to find her in Los Angeles (“I Heard Your Voice in a Dream”). He confronts her, she will sleep with him but wants Jesse to agree to keep supplying “Nina” with music, even though she wants to make sure no one even finds out who he is. Nina wants a big-time manager, JB – to sign her grabbing her chance at a party in his Hollywood Hills home she sings a 50’s style song (“Pretender”) (This would be the one song out of place.) JB does sign her. Jessie confront’s him and he sings (” The Guide to Success”) Nina sings a song Jesse has written for her about loving someone who makes it hard to love them (“Don’t Let Me Know”), and it launches her.
JB pairs Nina up with The Diva and they perform the song together at the VMAs (“I’m Not Sorry”), The Diva ends up having a very public meltdown, and Nina ascends to the top of the charts (the electric “Swim.”) Jesse tells Nina to choose him or her career (“I Heard Your Voice in a Dream (Reprise)”). She chooses her career and he leaves to the hotel penthouse, denying her any more music until she changes who she is (“Caught in the Storm”) (Justin paul played the piano on this.)
Nina succumbs to JB’s desires and they have become lovers. The Diva returns to her hometown as who she used to be, Sara Smith. No one recognizes her, or believes she is who she says she is. Her family has moved, her friends don’t know her. She feels more alone than ever before (“Haddenfield”).
Back in Greenpoint, Jesse gets himself clean, watching from afar as Nina struggles to maintain her success without his songs. On the VMAs, she fails singing (“Good For You (Reprise)”). She comes back to Jesse, meeting him back at their bridge, and she sings (“Heart-Shaped Wreckage”).
Jesse helps Nina become Amanda again, and together they get a meeting with the same record executives from the beginning. The two are giving a concert and the The Diva arrives and shoots and kills her. Jesse sings to Amanda as she dies in his arms on stage at the concert (“The Love I Meant to Say (Reprise)”).
Jesse back at zero, remembers Amanda’s legacy. Due to the notoriety over her violent act, The Diva is on top again. At the end of the show, Jesse says goodbye to Amanda as The Diva is back on top, even more famous in her infamy – although the next Amanda is somewhere out there to take her down (“The Goodbye Song”).
At this point the whole cast from “Smash” came into the room at 54 Below as the crowd went wild. This was a night one can only have in New York and I want to thank 54 Below.
This show plays tonight at 7pm and 11pm. It is sold out!