Artlab Productions recently wrapped its first virtual undertaking, "The Show Must Go On Show." The series, a variety show featuring segments ranging from performances and backstage insights to wellness, premiered in April at the height of the pandemic and provided fifteen minutes of humorous yet informative distraction. In addition, each episode highlighted an organization supporting a specific demographic that was being affected by the pandemic to which viewers could donate. To say the least, these were fifteen minutes well spent.
The hosts were Howie Michael Smith and Andy Truschinski, a dynamic duo that framed the fifteen-minute show with their whimsical banter. Each episode was centered on the performance of a Broadway artist and was followed by the guest appearance of creative professionals who gave viewers ideas on how to stay creative at home. The episodes also included advice from psychiatry specialist Dr. Tony Weiner and meditation expert Minita Gandhi. Together, the “Paging Dr. Tony” and “Moments of Meditation” segments encouraged viewers to take a wholesome approach to their wellness.
The intimate performances are riveting even to those who are new to the world of musical theater. Christiani Pitts and Meg Toohey’s performance of “Radio” in Episode 6 especially struck me. I found myself replaying the song a couple of times before watching the rest of the show. Many at-home performances we have seen over the past few months often have a workshop quality to them, whereas the artists we see in "The Show Must Go On Show" transcend this aesthetic and deliver fully fledged performances.
Still of Meg Toohey and Christiani Pitts from Episode 6.
The second half of the show focused on another professional in the arts. The “arts” here were approached broadly since the guest appearances included the likes of theaters personalities, a chef, a cartoonist, a producer, as well as a fitness trainer and a dog trainer to get our pets and us off the couch. A distinctive characteristic of these portraits is that the individuals they featured not only showcased their creative skill, they often shared a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the entertainment world. Amanda Cowper, field producer at "Late Night with Seth Meyers," spoke about the process of taking a comedy sketch from the page to screen. And Studio Tenn Artistic Director, Patrick Cassidy, spoke to Andy about his new role at Studio Tenn and his move from California to the heart of Tennessee. The segments were inspiring and comforting.
As the entertainment industry adjusted to the restrictions imposed by quarantine, multiple organizations and artists rode the wave of online programming. In the theater world the trend was “living room performances.” And although this was endearing and even gave viewers a peek of their favorite artists’ private spaces, their popularity made them that, too popular. Artlab set out to participate in this new form of programming but with a twist. The result was a streaming service à la mode with the old-school charm of a late night show.
During our Zoom cast-and-crew party, we reminisced on how this endeavor started during a conversation between friends when one of our producers exclaimed, “Let’s put on a show!” as we prepped for what we assumed would be a short-lived hiatus from in-person life. At its core, the story line of “The Show Must Go On Show” is a study of creativity in the great indoors. Yet it does more than that by showing audiences and its creators ways to cope and by promoting creativity in the midst of this transition to a different lifestyle.