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Bless the heart of Bill Redding, who stood up at the public hearing on rezoning lots for parking spaces east of ECU...

‘[title of show]’

Whirligig stages musical about writing a musical

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Kurt Kozel plays Hunter Bell in the Whirligig Stage production of “[title of show].”

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By Mackenzie Tewksbury

Friday, August 10, 2018

If you look closely, you can see Kurt Kozel’s left armpit start to sweat.

His heart will flutter so much you might actually be able see it through his shirt.

“On the first night and on the last night, my heart is the same,” he said. “My fight or flight is just kicking in full force, but it’s so, so good.”

The actor has been performing in musical theater since was 9 years old, and as he prepares to star in Whirligig Stage’s production of “[title of show],” he says the nerves never seem to fade. But he’s excited to be a part of the challenging piece that opens tonight .

The post-modern piece is a musical about two friends who have to write a musical to enter a contest, so they decide to write a musical about them actually creating a musical.

It’s funny and lighthearted but packed with real, raw emotion, Kozel said.

“It’s a little bit meta — it’s about a group of friends who became family and the troubles that come with trying to be creative,” Kozel said.

Erin Stowe, another performer in the piece, said while the show may be a bit different than most, it still carries some of the same themes of musicals everybody knows and loves.

“It’s about friendship, it’s about creation, it’s about having a good time with your friends,” Stowe said.

As Kozel changes into his official costume — a blue button down and jeans — it becomes apparent that the show isn’t flashy, it’s relatable. It’s four people in everyday clothes doing everyday things. 

“It’s about the troubles of trying to have it all,” Kozel said.

The original show, written by author Hunter Bell, premiered in New York City in 2004 and later played 102 regular performances at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre in 2008. Kozel plays Bell, and Stowe plays American actress Heidi Blickenstaff

The hardest part? Trying to portray the real people as genuinely as possible. 


”It’s really important to be genuine and true and not just be like, “Hey, laugh at us!’’ Stowe said.

“When you’re on stage, people paid money to come and see something funny, but they don’t want to be told, ‘Laugh.’ So, my difficulty was trying to say everything in more deadpan way,” Kozel added.

And while the show is very funny, the pair of performers say they want the audience to get much more out of it than a few laughs. Kozel said there are lots of moments of strong emotion and hopes the audience identifies with them.

“I think one thing to take out of it is that it’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be upset. And also realizing that there’s always an end …there’s big victorious moments,” Kozel said.

Stowe said one of her favorite songs in the show is titled “Die, Vampires, Die.”

“One thing that’s been very cathartic for me is what the character believes is ‘vampires’ — little things that pop into your head that hinder your creative process or make you feel worse about yourself,” Stowe said. “The song says die, vampire, die, and I know that struggling with that inner voice is very difficult. But everyone deserves the chance to create.”

For Kozel and Stowe, opening night comes with an equal amount of excitement and sadness because it’s bittersweet to see the process come to an end. And with a nine-show run at Whirligig ahead of them, Kozel said he’s excited to see all of their hard work come to life.

“When I think about this show, to be honest, it’s a great show for me because I kind of am Hunter Bell.

When they called me about the show, I was in the middle of writing my own play,” he said. “And even down to the minute details — this guy sweats when he’s nervous, and you’ll see that on me too.”

“His left armpit,” Stowe added with a laugh.

Whirligig Stage, 628 S. Pitt St., will present “[title of show]” at 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday and Aug. 17-18 and 7 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday. Matinee performances will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 19. Tickets are $20; $18 for students. Visit whirligigstage.com.

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