Jacob Sterling, Song-Filled Tale of Musical Comedy Ego, Begins Transfer Nov. 1

News   Jacob Sterling, Song-Filled Tale of Musical Comedy Ego, Begins Transfer Nov. 1
Call him the luckiest hack in musical theatre. Jacob Sterling, the fictional no-talent songwriter whose ego, insecurity and dubious gifts were on display at not-for-profit Atlantic Stage 2 in September, moves to an Off-Broadway commercial home starting Nov. 1.
What's That Smell... stars Peter Bartlett and David Pittu
What's That Smell... stars Peter Bartlett and David Pittu Photo by Doug Hamilton

David Pittu's acclaimed musical comedy satire, What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling, starring Pittu and Peter Bartlett, with a trio of fresh-faced actors providing backup, is now at New World Stages.

Daryl Roth is producing in association with Atlantic Theater Company. An official opening isn't planned; the reviews were already in — and they were positive.

The comedy (with music by composer Randy Redd, who set Pittu's lyrics) is co-directed by Pittu and Atlantic Theater Company artistic director Neil Pepe (Broadway's Speed-the-Plow).

The Atlantic world-premiere run sold out and extended to Oct. 5, at its 16th Street second space. Critics raved about the daffy portrait of the self-absorbed Sterling, who, sitting at a piano, indulgently sings songs from his misconceived musical versions of the films "La Femme Nikita" and "Private Benjamin." (Although Pittu tickled the ivories, the accompaniment is recorded.)

David Pittu and Peter Bartlett in What's That Smell..
photo by Doug Hamilton

The context of What's That Smell is a talk show in which a fawning host named Leonard Swagg, played by Bartlett, sheds light on the careers of musical writers of tomorrow ("Composers and Lyricists of Tomorrow," or CLOT). Sterling, we're told, is poised for his big Broadway bow, with a product-placement-filled show called Shopping Out Loud. Bartlett and Sterling are joined by three eager musical theatre newbies who perform some of his yeasty work — a medley from Shopping Out Loud. They are played by Chandra Lee Schwartz, Max Kumangai and Matt Schock.


Actor Pittu is a Tony Award nominee for his work in Is He Dead? and LoveMusik. Bartlett recently starred in Lincoln Center Theater's The New Century, and was god of the underworld in LCT's The Frogs.

Here's how the producers bill the show: "What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling is a hilarious musical parody that charts the career of eternally up-and-coming (and fictitious) musical theatre composer Jacob Sterling (Pittu). A rare, up close and personal visit with an artist of questionable gifts who performs from his songbook and shares his human struggle to keep musical theatre alive and well into the 21st century."

The show features scenic design by Takeshi Kata, costume design by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting design by Matthew Richards, sound design by Jill DuBoff, projection design by Dustin O'Neill, and production stage management by Alison DeSantis.

New World Stages is at 340 W. 50th Street.

What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling will play Monday evening, and Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with Saturday matinees at 2 PM and Sunday performances at 3 PM and 7 PM. Tuesdays are dark.

Tickets are $55 and $65, and are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, online at www.telecharge.com, or in person at the box office.

Student tickets will be available for $25 on the day of performance at the box office only with a valid student identification.

For more information, visit www.whatsthatsmelloffbway.com.

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