Rosie would be proud. Jake Wilson and his post grad colleagues from University of Michigan-Ann Arbor have belted out two seasons of clever story telling with exceptional musical numbers that tap dance straight into the heart of theater lovers.
The Battery’s Down, an original online comedy series created by Wilson, has managed to come out on top with its impressive cameo collection and choreography. The show introduces amateur actor, Jake Wilson, living in New York City, doing whatever it takes to land a gig on Broadway.
Like so many other web series, the show is shot like The Office, with a hybrid blend of improvisation and scripted content that serves as a backdrop for the musical showcase. Think Joss Whedon’s “Once More with Feeling” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer but without the vampires or demons (and without Whedon’s genius dialogue). In this coming of age tale, the combined cast does a great job at the grunt work required of every up and coming actor who dreams to be on Broadway. The ensemble stays in step with original musical scores and tiptop choreography. They sing, they act and yes, they dance.
On a potential dime, Wilson has managed to lure Broadway stars such as Tony winner, Christine Ebersole (42nd Street) and Tony nominated Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) to the series and enlisted the most promising up -nd-coming composers, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who wrote the show’s theme song). Musical contributions also come from David Kirshenbaum (Vanities, Summer of ’42), Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy!), and Michael Patrick Walker (Altar Boyz). All of the performers whip it into shape with creative choreographed dance sensations, costumes and locations that include New York, Las Vegas and (of course) a gay cruise line.
If you are a New York City resident and love the theater, the inside jokes and constant cameos will impress you. But for everyone else out there, you might miss the innuendos. For instance in “Viva Las Jakeas” Episode 4, Part 1 the show opens up with a dream sequence. For Broadway enthusiasts, it’s clear it’s a take on Spring Awakening, but for anyone who hasn’t seen the show, there is no way you’d figure that out. Fortunately for Wilson, the series can stand on its own even if you don’t frequent the theater.
With big Broadway beats built into their small budget production, The Battery’s Down at times feels like a very good NYU student film project. The cast receives my standing ovation for enticing me to sing along and tap my feet to the tunes, but the sound quality and production values aren’t quite up to snuff. It seems like Jake Wilson woke up one day and decided to create an original web series and reached out to his fellow drama buddies to make a spectacular singin’ web show. It’d be great to see what the kid could do with a bigger budget.
A round of applause goes out to the notable musical numbers, “You Should Be In That,” “This is Your Life” and “Natural.” These melodies are sure to see some hits on iTunes. But if you find yourself enthralled in every number, just hit Jake up for the soundtrack. It’s available, along with tee shirts at www.thebatterysdown.com.