• Opening Night

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: August 1, 2017
    Director: Isaac Rentz
    Cast: Topher Grace, Anne Heche, Taye Diggs, Alona Tal, Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer, and J.C. Chasez
    Year: 2016

    The Movie:

    Lighthearted and fun but predictable, the backstage screwball comedy Opening Night is a better-than-average ensemble cast affair that relies mostly on the charm of its stars to carry it through slow stretches and paper over plot holes. It’s far from being one of the best of its genre, but its 83-minute running time (the DVD package lists 90) breezes by quickly and you might just laugh a time or two.

    Topher Grace stars as Nick, a former Broadway star in the making whose career bottomed out and now works as a stage manager for the about-to-open musical extravaganza One Hit Wonderland, starring former N’Sync member J.C. Chasez (played by himself). On the show’s opening night, Nick has a thousand goals to accomplish, no one to help him, and little time to get it all done. This includes massaging the egos of his stars, including aging co-star Brooke (Anne Heche), herding backup singers and dancers into their positions, making sure the performances hit every cue, and pleasing his loud-mouthed boss Mr. Goldmeyer (Rob Riggle, being perfectly Riggle-esque).

    Making Nick’s job even more complicated is the suspicion he can’t shake that his ex-girlfriend, and another of the show’s leads, Chloe (Alona Tal), has been seeing Chasez for an undetermined amount of time – something he seeks to prove true as a way of validating his decision to prematurely end their relationship. Once the curtain rises, the shit hits the proverbial fan as Nick is forced to deal with an escalating series of problems, chief among them Brooke getting injured and treated with Ecstasy that causes her to go bonkers before she’s set to go on stage. With both his job and his future with Chloe hanging in the balance, Nick must leap through numerous hoops and make the impossible possible to ensure the show’s inaugural performance goes off mostly without a hitch.

    Opening Night is the type of disposable entertainment where you can tell based on the synopsis that things are going to turn out okay in the end for our beleaguered hero Nick. Music video veteran Isaac Rentz, making his feature directorial debut here, supplies more than enough razzle and dazzle to liven things up when they threaten to get dull and is adept at keeping his well-stocked cast busy and with plenty of motivation to play their scenes effectively. He knows who to pair up, who to keep isolated (mostly Riggle, who floats in and out of scenes shouting hilarious vulgarities, making threats, and then exiting stage right), and when to throw in an impromptu musical number.

    There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments in Opening Night, some modest chuckles, and that’s about it. The humor mostly comes from the rapid-fire dialogue delivered by Rentz’s game actors, the best of which is Taye Diggs as a backup dancer in the show who serves as Nick’s conscience and only real friend but also gets some priceless moments to develop an interesting relationship of his own with a rival (Lauren Lapkus) who he has more in common with than either suspected. Grace makes for an appealing lead, always able to play the lone sane man with a broken heart in a world gone mad, and he shared workable chemistry with Alona Tal’s Chloe, who probably has a better onscreen rapport with J.C. Chasez (cheerfully sending up his own celebrity image and being a dynamic performer in the musical-within-the-movie).

    Riggle and Scheer bring more comic relief to the party, and Heche gets to be pretty funny while also portraying a fading former star of the stage who fears her best days are behind her with a saddening conviction. The songs are mostly ones that have existed for decades, but the cast performs them with style and knowing humor. Rentz and cinematographer Andre Lascaris (Good Dick) bombard the realistic sets (built on soundstages in Mexico City, standing in for The Great White Way) with a rainbow of flashy colors and keep the energy flowing through the film. The end result is a sweet little diversion that just might bring some joy to your dark day, and nothing more.


    Umbrella Entertainment’s Region 4 DVD release of Opening Night features a terrific standard-definition transfer of the digitally-shot film in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Colors and details stand out in the crisp picture, with the One Hit Wonderland performances really maxing out the image’s potential to impress. The transfer is served well by the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Dialogue is clear and audible, music and sound effects are integrated into the sound mix with great results, and the track is thankfully free of distortion and unbalanced volume. No subtitles have been provided.

    Something else that wasn’t provided for this DVD? Extra features. We don’t even get a trailer (though you can watch it on YouTube). The disc doesn’t even have a main menu; the movie just starts playing only a few seconds after the DVD loads.

    The Final Word:

    Opening Night aspires to be a lighthearted and sweet ensemble comedy about the travails and pleasures of life in the theater and it achieves that goal with intelligence, style, and wit. If such a movie suits your mood, the Umbrella Entertainment DVD is something I would happily recommend.