Musical Theatre Spoof What's That Smell Will Transfer to Commercial Run

News   Musical Theatre Spoof What's That Smell Will Transfer to Commercial Run
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 will get an Off-Broadway commercial home starting this fall.
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, will begin performances Nov. 1 at New World Stages.

Daryl Roth is producing in association with Atlantic Theater Company.

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 upcoming 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.)

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. Complete casting will be announced.

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, 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

Today’s Most Popular News: