The Noteworthy Musical You Should See Right Away on BDT Stage

What if you woke up one day to find that your life was a musical? That’s what happens to Howard Barnes, but let’s go back a bit. 

Howard Barnes . BDT Stage . Glenn Ross-101
Photo by Glenn Ross

In my review of “White Christmas,” I announced that I am overjoyed to have live theater back. We do not survive well as a society without it in our lives. That being said, between and the “Berthoud Weekly Surveyor,” I have been reviewing dinner theater for almost 16-years, and there is a tendency in the industry to repeat the same shows again and again. 

For example, I counted the number of times Ryan and I have seen “The Sound of Music.” I have the utmost love for Maria and her band of merry von Trapp children, but I have seen that musical on stage five times. That’s F-I-V-E times. As dearly as I cherish “My Favorite Things,” I do not need to hear “Climb Every Mountain” for several more years, maybe decades. 

So, it was refreshing when I read that BDT Stage was bringing something different, something I hadn’t seen, to the stage. After all, my generation, the forty-somethings of the world, need to feel like there is musical theater being made for us, and I feel this one fits the bill, the playbill that is. 

Howard Barnes . BDT Stage . Glenn Ross-38
Photo by Glenn Ross

There is a genuine feeling that musical theater is something attended when taking mom or grandma out for their birthdays. However, it can be fun, witty, and a bit naughty. It can even feature a few swear words, which, “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes” does. 

The story follows Howard Barnes, a stereotypical guy in his 30s, living in a sort of “How I Met Your Mother” New York apartment. One morning, he wakes up to find that his normal life now involves a lot of music and dancing, and he is at the center of all this hullabaloo.

“The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes” is a play inside a play, and while Howard is generally confused about what is happening, this is an ode to musicals. Whereas a longtime theater buff may find some “easter eggs” like lines from other musicals subtly thrown in, those who rarely attend musicals (like Howard) will get the obvious references to plays like “Cats” and “Annie.”

I particularly loved the ode to “Chicago” in the form “Commitmentphobic,” a song and dance number that had me singing along.

While this show is about a man trapped inside a musical, it is also about the love story of Howard and Maggie, expertly played by scene-stealer, McKayla Marso McDonough. Her timing and skills at being downright silly are God-given talents.

Howard Barnes . BDT Stage . Glenn Ross-153
Photo by Glenn Ross

Howard, played by Chas Lederer, grew on me, which is what I think is supposed to happen. At first, he was this annoying, musical-hating, cubicle dweller. However, as the musical progressed, I became a cheerleader for Howard. I wanted him to get the girl. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to realize that he was the star of his own life. 

And maybe that’s the point of “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes,” to show us all that we are the star of our own story. Or, perhaps it’s just a good time complete with singing, dancing and jokes. 

Whatever the point, BDT Stage knocked it out of the park with this one, but it is a short run. “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes” is only on the BDT Stage through April 23. So, you’ll want to see it soon.

Coming to the stage in May is “The Spongebob Musical.” See the many various shows that have only one weekend runs at

Thank you to BDT Stage for tickets to “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes.”

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