Topher Grace is not a singer. He’s an actor, and in the case of this film, producer. He still sings in this movie, but he’s not exactly looking to start a music career anytime soon. And when we say not exactly we mean not at all.
(We might have asked, in jest, about the possibilities of an album dropping. There was much laughter from both sides.)
He was, however, interested in doing a film like this – a “musical for people who don’t like musicals.” Because, the one thing we can say about Opening Night, above all others, is that this is not a musical for the traditional fans of the genre. Those will probably enjoy it, yes, but this is a musical for the people who don’t usually enjoy them. This is a musical for people like Topher, who think they can be corny and over-the top.
Opening Night can be over-the-top funny and that’s about it.
The whole premise of the movie, which premiered yesterday at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is that one-hit wonders are only so if they worry so much about the past that they can’t focus on the future. And yet, it’s clear to see that Grace, and the rest of the cast, are sending a very clear message with this film. They’re not one-hit wonders.
Not by a longshot.
Grace, however, reveals that he had help on the music front – and tons of it, from JC Chasez, the former NSYNC member who’s making his film debut in Opening Night. Chasez plays, well, himself, and he does it with a self-awareness that’s comical even before he’s uttered a word. So, maybe, though Grace won’t say it straight out, we can thank some of Chasez’s comedic chops to his time spent with Grace – and the other way around, some of Grace’s singing prowess to Chasez.
The movie, however, is more than one actor. It’s an ensemble of pretty funny people who seem to be having a great time. “I’ve never had as much fun filming anything as I did this,” Grace admits, and it shows, especially when Taye Diggs is on screen. Because Diggs is hilarious in the movie, and apparently, was the prankster on the set. Or, at least, the experienced hand. “He made everyone laugh, and relax and get ready for a scene,” Grace recalled. “It was great having him play Malcolm.”
Diggs, a veteran of many a Brodway shows, probably knows better than anyone else what it is to be on stage, but this movie is not about being on the stage, it’s about what can happen off it, and what each and every one of these characters has to do to ensure that the show goes on.
Although no one gets that cliché, not on this Opening Night.
Sometimes, in a movie like this, there’s a fine line between comedy and parody. And yes, these people are effectively making fun of themselves, but only the audience is laughing. They’re not in on the joke. They’re talking it seriously.
In fact, Nick is taking everything so, so seriously, it’s a wonder he doesn’t explode. The moody former Brodway star (or one-hit wonder, depending how you want to look at it) is a man who lives in constant fear. In fact, he’s so afraid that for ninety percent of the movie he projects his fear onto others. When you live like Nick does it’s hard to accept that you might be wrong, that asking for what you want won’t result in heartache – even when that attitude threatens to cost him the woman he loves. “You can feel he’s been hurt,” Grace says, “and that informs the journey he goes through”
So, yes, it’s a romance. And there’s lots of laughter. But mostly, there’s singing. And that wasn’t as easy as it sounds for Grace. “Singing is about confidence,” he reveals, and, like with anything, to have confidence, “you need to practice.”
He got some practice, though, so, to finish, I had to ask his go-to karaoke song. He insisted he never did much karaoke. At my commenting that he would surely be doing it now, after his friends saw this movie, he relented and chose “Mr. Big,” the song he sings in the movie.
I might have called him a cheater for that, but that’s okay. He promised to have one picked out for me next time we talked. After a movie like this, he’s bound to be dragged to a karaoke bar.
The LA Film Festival will run from June 1 to June 9th. Opening Night premiered June 3rd, 2016.