Review: 'Opening Night' Staring Topher Grace, Anne Heche & JC Chasez

Set amidst the backstage chaos of a Broadway show, Opening Night is a new musical comedy out on DVD and VOD today. Although an ensemble film at its core, the plot mainly centers on Nick (Topher Grace), the high-strung stage manager of the new Broadway musical “One Hit Wonderland”, and all the trouble he faces working behind the scenes of the show’s troubled first performance.
A disgraced former Broadway actor, Nick is now somewhat resentful of his friends he watches perform from the wings. Further adding to his stress, his ex-girlfriend Chloe (Alona Tal) is not only starring in “Wonderland”, but also having an affair with its B-List celebrity lead: NSYNC’s JC Chasez.

To his credit, Chasez is hilarious playing a washed-up, pretentious, womanizing version of himself. He knows where he stands in our collective pop-cultural mindset and isn’t afraid to make fun of his status as “the other guy from NSYNC.” Similar to Neil Patrick Harris’ legendary cameos in the Harold and Kumar films, Chasez goes all out with the brutal, bizarre self-parody to great effect.

It should also be noted that the film is also a musical, and a rather unconventional one at that. The fictional musical-within-a-musical revolves around famous one hit wonder songs from the 80’s to the present, and sticking with this theme Opening Night‘s songs do as well, with the actor characters still performing well-choreographed pop songs backstage between scenes. A bit of a conceptual head-trip, it is a bit jarring when this otherwise straightforward hard-R comedy goes full-out Glee every couple minutes. That being said, the talented cast manages to sell these musical non-sequiturs with enough tongue-in-cheek fun that the numbers wind up enhancing the movie rather than slowing it down.

The strongest aspect of Opening Night, however, has to be its side characters and subplots, of which there are many. Taye Diggs is hilarious as a flamboyant chorus member getting into a sort of ego battle with Lesli Margherita’s character. Anne Heche has some truly fantastic physical comedy moments as the play’s concussed star. There’s a running joke about pit musicians that really landed. Honestly, I just wish more time could have been spent with these side jokes. The idea of focusing on the chaos backstage at a theater and all the intertwining plots that can happen between cast members is all really interesting. Trying to contain all of that into a 90-minute film that’s also a musical? That’s quite a lot to manage, and it shows. Throughout the whole movie I kept thinking to myself that it would have been better suited as a series. With the film going right to Netflix anyway, I wish they could have found a way to split up this idea into episodes as opposed to trying to make it work as a single narrative feature.

My inner theater nerd did flare up the handful of inaccuracies and exaggerations made throughout Opening Night, but for the most part these flaws were just in the little details. It ultimately did do a good job at capturing, in broad strokes, the energy of a putting up a show. It also provides several really funny moments and enjoyable, if slightly out of place, musical numbers that are scattered throughout. Opening Night is a fun and strange little movie. It’s not much more than that, but it isn’t trying to be.

3 out of 5