Thursday, February 21, 2013

REVIEW: Web Series: It Could Be Worse

Wesley Taylor: Co-creator and star...
The first three episodes of the newest Broadway-themed web series It Could Be Worse are out, and considering that the sum total of the experience is around 20 minutes, it pleases me to report that you get a lot of bang for your buck here.

Grade: A

Warning: There are some plot spoilers ahead.

Created by and starring former Rock of Ages castmates Wesley Taylor and Mitchell Jarvis, the series tells the story of struggling New York actor Jacob Gordon (Taylor) and his messed up life.  Of course, most of it is his own doing, and the rest is just shitty (in one case, literally) bad luck.  The guy is flawed - he's a drug-taking party boy who sleeps around, and a self-saboteur, plus he's conflicted about love, unable to find satisfying work and his family is falling apart.  And he surrounds himself with enablers: a sex-crazed mother who doesn't listen (the riotous Nancy Opel), a hypochondriac boyfriend (the very funny Gideon Glick), and a self-involved, grieving therapist (the terrific Audra McDonald). It could be worse.  And it gets there.

This is and isn't your typical "Broadway-themed" webseries.  It's "insidery," but in a background kind of way.  You don't need to be in the business to understand a second of it, but recognizing your favorite Broadway actors is fun, especially since they aren't playing themselves or parodies of themselves.  So far, in the first three episodes, there have been cameos and bit parts played by Laura Benanti, Adam Chanler-Berat, Meghann Fahy, Lauren Molina, Justin Sargent, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Andrew Durand, John Jellison, Ephraim Sykes and Kyle Dean Massey among others.  Taylor and Jarvis have a lot of friends, it seems, and the show is all the better for it.

Star-studded cameos...

Aside from star-gazing, the show also has some moments anyone can relate to.  Who hasn't had an embarrassing job interview?  Who hasn't had a clingy lover that you just can't dump?  Who hasn't been uncomfortable when you realize your parents are as sexual as you are?  Who hasn't been ambushed by a long ago friend who is more successful than you are, forcing you to lie about your successes?  And there are some great "New York" moments: coming up out of the subway into Times Square, tourists bug-eyed, natives bored and unimpressed; those annoying tour bus guys shoving pamphlets at you; the aggressive Fosse-ized Chicago shills with the bowler hats and red tights...  And the sights that'll make Broadway fans mutter, "I've been there!" like Shubert Alley, Angus McIndoe, the Playwright's Tavern, that alley next to the parking garage across from Once...

New York locales...

There are three things that make this show work, when it comes right down to it.  First, the production values are superb - cinema quality, really.  The sound is amazing, especially considering the locations where they film, and the camera work, including some really spiffy montages, is first-rate.  Second, the writing is smart, and character-driven.  Even the schizophrenic tone - part frat boy party film, part Book of Mormon-style gross-out, part social commentary - matches the situation and the main character to a "T." And third, and probably in the long run, most importantly, the lead actor, Wesley Taylor, is compelling to watch, completely relatable and also very cute.  I bring that up, though, not as a sly comment about him (he does look amazing in his underwear, too), but because he is cute in a way that makes you route for him and makes you frustrated with his character.  "Jacob" uses cute to avoid problems, soothe his angst with sex, and to charm everyone.  Cute has bought him a trip to the doctor - he has the clap.  But he doesn't have herpes!  See?  It could be worse.

Catch up on the first three episodes at  New episodes are up every Friday.  Follow the show on Facebook and Twitter (@ICBWseries).  Read an interview with ICBW co-star Gideon Glick HERE.


Don't forget:

  • ENTER to WIN tickets to ORPHANS on Broadway! (left column)
  • VOTE in HOT or NOT (right column)
  • CHECK OUT Part I of my interview with GIDEON GLICK! (left column)
  • CHECK OUT my review of the touring AMERICAN IDIOT! (left column)

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