This morning I woke up feeling slightly queasy and it wasn’t because of the daily fringe festival hangover. I’d been scheduled to review a musical theatre improv workshop. Childhood memories of hitting a bum note in school assembly and dramatically running off stage came flooding back to me. Improvised comedy is probably one of my favourite things in life, but the thought of improvising a show stopping number fills me with dread. Since the days of school choir, I’ve barely sung a note apart from in the shower or the odd drunken karaoke. However, the cast of Baby Wants Candy instantly put me at my ease with their warm welcome.
Baby Wants Candy are a renowned musical improv company from America. Many of their members trained at The Second City, the prestigious improv training centre that first offered a stage to the likes of Tina Fey, Steve Carrell and Mike Myers. I saw Baby Wants Candy perform at last year’s Fringe Festival and they gave a mind-blowing performance. They make it look so easy, improvising songs and dancing in unison, but after two hours of sweating and singing I can confirm that what they do is extremely difficult and a rare talent.
Kicking off the workshop with a warm-up to introduce each other, I began to feel my nerves fade away. After doing some basic improv exercises, we went on to add piano and singing (or squawking in my case). We learnt how to improvise verses, taglines and choruses, inventing songs about rainy days, World War Two and twins. It was amazing what we achieved in just two hours and it’s a shame we didn’t have longer. A three-hour workshop with a fifteen-minute break would have been ideal, as there were 17 students each waiting their turn to perform. Also, the workshop finished just as we had started to get the hang of musical improv, so it would have been great to have more time to put our new skills into practice.
The course leader, Erica, was really great at slowly building our confidence. She constantly reminded us to stick to our guns and not doubt our performances. Admittedly by the end of the workshop I wasn’t yet a pro, but this two hour class was a great starting point for musical improv. During the Fringe, the cast of BWC are also hosting a 4-day intensive long-form workshop. The classes will run for six hours each day and they will be teaching the American style of long form improv. These workshops are ideal for an avid improviser who is keen to learn from the cream of the crop, as this two hour musical improv workshop was more of a taster for beginners.