What's That Smell Will Linger an Extra Week to Oct. 5 | Playbill

News What's That Smell Will Linger an Extra Week to Oct. 5
Tickets are growing scarce for David Pittu's well-reviewed "comedy with vocal selections," What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling, a portrait of a self-absorbed musical theatre nobody with an ego the size of Oklahoma — but no apparent talent.
Peter Bartlett and David Pittu in What's That Smell.
Peter Bartlett and David Pittu in What's That Smell. Photo by Doug Hamilton

Atlantic Theater Company's world-premiere production, starring Pittu in designer sneakers and a frosted-tips hairdo, will get an extra week, through Oct. 5, owing to demand. The satire opened Sept. 10 at Atlantic Stage 2, the intimate three-quarter space on West 16th Street.

The production, which began previews Off-Broadway Sept. 2, co-stars creator Pittu and Peter Bartlett, with three performers who serve as guest singers in the play's conceit of a talk-show-style look at the work of songwriters — the forum is called "Composers and Lyricists of Tomorrow," or CLOT.

Bartlett (as Leonard Swagg) is the fawning host, and Pittu (as Sterling) is the indulgent guest, tickling the ivories and sharing songs from his awful musical versions of "Private Benjamin" and "La Femme Nikita." The writer, we learn, will make his Broadway debut imminently with a musical called Shopping Out Loud, which is a sort of brand-name revue sponsored by retail stores (expect songs about Timberland, Victoria's Secret and more — heard here in a medley).

The company also includes Brandon Goodman, Matt Schock and Heléne Yorke.

Co-directed by Pittu and Atlantic Theater Company artistic director Neil Pepe, the play with (recorded) original music (by composer Randy Redd) is billed as "an absurd musical satire that charts the career of eternally up-and-coming (and fictitious) musical theatre composer Jacob Sterling (Pittu)." It was originally slated to run to Sept. 28. *

From the mind of the deft actor who was Tony Award-nominated for LoveMusik and Is He Dead? comes "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 in the 21st century," according to ATC.

The "comedy with vocal selections" marks the first production of Atlantic Stage 2's 2008-2009 season at its second stage theatre, where two new works are staged each year.

Veteran character actor Bartlett makes his Atlantic debut in the new comedy. He'll play the host of a musical theatre talk show, interviewing composer-performer Jacob Sterling. He developed the character with Pittu during the Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival this summer. Bartlett was most recently seen on the New York stage in Paul Rudnick's collection of short comedies The New Century at Lincoln Center Theater. He was the butler in Broadway's The Drowsy Chaperone. Other Broadway credits include The Frogs, Never Gonna Dance and Beauty and the Beast, and Off-Broadway in the Rudnick comedies The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told; Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach; Rude Entertainment and Jeffrey. On television, he has played Nigel on "One Life to Live" for the past 15 years.

Atlantic Company member Pittu most recently appeared at Atlantic in Harold Pinter's Celebration and The Room, for which he received Drama Desk and Lortel Award nominations. Last season, his acclaimed performance in the Mark Twain comedy Is He Dead? earned him his second Tony nomination, after being nominated the previous year for the Kurt Weill musical LoveMusik. He has appeared on Broadway in The Coast of Utopia and Never Gonna Dance, for City Center Encores! in Of Thee I Sing, and Off-Broadway in Stuff Happens, The Fourth Wall and The Lights. As a director, Pittu staged Atlantic's hit production of the George S. Kaufman comedy The Butter and Egg Man.

Composer Redd's most recent performance credits include the Broadway musical Ring of Fire and Terrence McNally's play Some Men Off Broadway. He made his Broadway debut in the musical Parade and also appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber's By Jeeves. Original compositions include writing music and lyrics for the musicals The Deep End, Touche with Blair Ross and Dream Big!; music for the plays Composition and The Neon Bible, and the original score for the film "Hold." His credits as a playwright include Mississippi Sugar and Quick Mud.

The design team for What's That Smell will feature 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.

Pepe recently staged the world premiere of Jez Butterworth's Parlour Song at Atlantic and the world premiere of Ethan Coen's Almost an Evening at Atlantic Stage 2, followed by its commercial transfer to The Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street. In May, he directed a double-bill of Atlantic founder David Mamet's plays — the world-premiere of Keep Your Pantheon and The Duck Variations at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. Recent credits include Harold Pinter's first and most recent plays, The Room and Celebration at Atlantic, the world premiere of David Mamet's comedy Romance at Atlantic as well as the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the world premiere of Howard Korder's Sea of Tranquility, and more around the country and in London. He will direct the upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow at the Belasco Theatre this season.

Atlantic Stage 2 is at 330 W. 16th Street. What's That Smell plays Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Saturday matinees at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. All tickets are $50 and available by calling Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 (www.ticketcentral.com).

For more information, visit www.atlantictheater.org.

The cast of <i>What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling.</i>
The cast of What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling. Photo by Doug Hamilton

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