A night of improvised theatre is always a gamble. Even the best improvisational actors can have a bad night, and when the show is based on audience suggestions, anything can happen. Spontaneous Broadway’s current line up consists of John Thorn on keyboard, Amberly Cull, Louisa Fitzhardinge, Rik Brown and Andrew Mclelland. The host for the opening night was Russel Fletcher, a last minute replacement for Lliam Amor.
Spontaneous Broadway shows follow a fixed structure. The audience are asked to create song titles as they wait for the show to start. 4 titles are drawn randomly (?), 1 for each of the improvisers. On the spot, they create a musical title the show is from, and recap the basic plot up to the point in the show where the audience member’s song suggestion fits. They then announce the title, and improvise the song on the spot. Thorn is very accomplished at making up a tune on the fly to the genre requested, and following the cast as they improvise the song lyrics. After each of the 4 ‘musicals’ is introduced in this way, the audience votes on their favourite, which is then improvised in its entirety.
An impatiently rude heckler spoiled the first ‘pitch’. In revenge Brown exponentially increased the mime component of his number, and the song was reduced to one line. At that point, I can flip them both over my shoulder from the musical, ‘Burgers and Buns’ did not seem likely to be seen in full. The birds are singing, from the musical ‘Birds!’ performed by Cull was quite popular in the final vote. The bass that is the best in the west, from ‘Don’t put your hat on my fish tank’ was never really in the running, although the country conflict song turning into a romantic duet was a surprise. But it was the dark humour of the audience, hoping to see the cast stumble to repeat the ridiculously long character name and battle the hundreds of syllable of a fictional Welsh town, that decided that the winning musical would be ‘What’s in a name?’, containing the moving song, I wish my name was simpler, improvised by Fitzhardinge (touch of irony there…).
As in all such shows, the audience is most likely to be impressed by the improvising skill shown by the cast, and in a musical version, by their singing, rather than the scintillating plot. Opening night was no exception, with some crazy stories and a number of inconsistencies. One such issue was caused by the host/narrator gender swapping the main character Saskatchewan (but I guess we should cut him some slack, as a ring in), but for the most part, they kept their stories straight. The only other issue was some major pitch issues with Mclelland’s singing throughout the show. The other cast members could hold a harmony, and it’s always impressive to see people making up lyrics, tune and harmony on the spot.
I have seen various incarnations of Spontaneous Broadway perform over the years, and while the quality of individual songs and stories will differ, overall they are always entertaining. And no two shows are ever the same. This latest cast brought the laughs with varying levels of vocal skill, but equal enthusiasm, humour and spontaneity. You are always guaranteed a laugh when Spontaneous Broadway take the stage