One Night Stand: Creating a Play in a Day: Film Review

One Night Stand Poster - P 2013

One Night Stand Poster - P 2013

This entertaining backstage documentary chronicles the fear and exhilaration involved in creating four 15-minute musicals in a single day. 

A gallery of theater artists struggles to create and perform four original short musicals in 24 hours.

Applying the concept of “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” to the extreme, the fly-on-the-wall documentary One Night Stand: Creating a Play in a Day chronicles the manic efforts of a group of composers, playwrights, directors, designers and performers to create and present four original short musicals, all in the space of 24 hours. While the proceedings will be of primary interest to theater buffs, this engaging film directed by Elisabeth Sperling and Trish Dalton delivers an entertainingly condensed portrait of backstage hysteria.

Presented in some 450 theaters nationwide on Jan. 30, it will surely attract audiences in ancillary formats, with public television exposure bound to follow.

The filmmakers chronicle the creation of the 2009 edition of The 24 Hour Musicals, an annual charity event presented by The 24 Hour Company.  It’s an offspring of the similar The 24 Hour Plays, presented in New York since 1995. A gallery of notable theater talents donates their services to the enterprise, including in this case such familiar television faces as Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Cheyenne Jackson (30 Rock), Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live), Roger Bart (Desperate Housewives) and Richard Kind (Mad About You) among others.

The concept is simple, if fearsomely daunting. It all begins at 8 pm, when a group of composers gather at the National Arts Club. Over the next twelve hours, they somehow manage to write a quartet of 15-minute musicals. The next morning, the directors and performers are assigned their material, which they immediately begin learning and rehearsing prior to giving a public performance that evening.

Needless to say, it’s an immense challenge, one that the film captures in visceral fashion. We watch as Kind agonizes over memorizing a lengthy solo musical number; Dratch worries over her less than stellar singing voice; and basically everyone involved wonders how in the hell they’ll manage to get through the proceedings unscathed.

As we see from the scenes of the actual performance, a few glitches aside—Ferguson at one point amusingly freezes onstage, unable to remember his lines and finally pulling out his script—they generally come through with flying colors. And despite the fear and anxiety on display throughout, it all looks like so much fun that it will no doubt inspire legions of young people to enroll in their high school and university theater programs.

(NCM Fathom Events)

Cast: Roger Bart, Rachel Dratch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Cheyenne Jackson, Richard Kind, Mandy Gonzalez, Capathia Jackson, Michael Longoria, Theresa McCarthy, Nellie McKay, Marnie Schulenberg, Scarlet Strallen, Tracie Thoms, Tamara Tunie, Alicia Witt

Directors/producers: Elisabeth Sperling, Trish Dalton

Directors of photography: Joshua Bee Alafia, Mia Barker, Ian Dudley, Nara Garber, Albert Maysles, Luke Meyer, Hannah Rosenzweig, David Soll, Alex Stikich, Joshua Z. Weinstein

Editors: Julia Janata, Karen Lynn Weinberg

Composer: Paul Trubachik

Not rated, 74 min.