What do you get when you take a team of improv comedy experts, some made up show tunes and a wisecracking host? Well, Broadway’s Next Hit Musical of course…or something like that.
This show, an interesting comedy-musical hybrid, is being presented at the casual and intimate Triad Theatre, just north of Broadway’s musical madness. Before the show began, and guests settled into their seats with drinks, audience members were asked to write made up song names on cards that were collected in a fishbowl and set on stage.
After a warm up from host Jeff Rogers who cracked jokes about everything from Facebook to New Jersey, the show opened like a Tony Awards ceremony. Each of the five actors, including Robert Z. Grant and Kobi Libii, took the stage decked out in tuxes and gowns as if they were being nominated for best song of the year. They pulled cards out of the fishbowl, each one becoming a nominated song. After a bit of stammering and quick thinking, each actor improvised a song based on the sometimes silly titles written on the cards (“Shave My Beard and Rub my Toes”) and sometimes perplexing (“T2: Two Tempo”). The card that read “If Love is a Disease, you are my IV Drip” turned into a song about an epileptic World War II nurse by Deb Rabbai and “Babbit & Bubba: Remember When” was a nostalgic redneck ballad by Rob Schiffmann about his ex best friend.
Whatever cards were pulled, the actors somehow managed to pull off a hilarious and well-sung show tune that fit the bill. Equally impressive was pianist Eric March whose on-the-spot playing accompanied each song.
While most of the performers have comedic backgrounds, their vocal ranges were impressive as well and any one would fit right in on a Broadway stage. The performances walk a fine line between poking fun at musicals with their predictable hooks and sometimes cheesy plotlines, while also celebrating the genre’s magical quality.
After four songs were improvised, the audience came into play and we used our applause to vote for the song we liked the best. Our choice of the night was “T2: Two Tempo” about a school in the Alps performed by Rebecca Vigil and Grant in snarky French accents.
The second act of the show was a semi-full length production called “Climb you Bastard” based around the winning song. This time the actors came out costumed in striped shirts, suspenders and sunglasses. What progressed was true improv, with characters coming in and out as they pleased, throwing out hilarious lines and continuing to invent songs seemingly off the top of their heads. The plot revolved around Virgil’s character, one of the students at the school at the bottom of her class but longing to do better and go to a school at a lower altitude. There was also a token mean girl, her assassin father and the school’s headmaster, a bizarre grading system and a mime. Sound confusing? Well it is to a certain extent but it’s not the plot that matters so much as the jokes and the way the actors artfully create a musical out of thin air.
Broadway’s Next Hit Musical
158 W 72nd St
Though April 21, 2011