Music Theatre Warwick returns to the festival with their long-form, entirely improvised musical that is a rollicking good time, even if there are a few kinks that need ironing out.
A rollicking good time even if there are a few kinks that need ironing out
The company is one of the longer running of the long-form musical improv troupes that have slowly taken over the festival, and their formula is simple and straightforward. Using suggestions from the audience, taken by a besuited M.C., the players improvise an entirely unique musical from scratch before our very eyes. A tricky endeavor to be sure, but one that the group, for the most part, is able to pull off to an impressive effect. Every performer brings an energy, commitment and joy to their roles which is simply infectious, and has the audience humming along with the tunes and applauding uproariously at the end of every song. For a group of such young improvisors they all showed impressive acting and singing chops, able to effortlessly harmonise during choral numbers and craft witty lyrics off the top of their heads at the drop of a hat. In the entire hour-long show, packed with new songs, I can say there wasn’t a bad tune amongst them.
It was when the music stopped, however, that the cracks began to appear. Between songs the energetic synergy the players had with one another seems to disappear as they floundered through awkward ad-libs, often talking over each other, and were unable to land any real jokes. More often than not, scenes were simply left to meander with no real direction, purpose, or comedic sting to guide them. It often felt that the company’s pianist started up his keyboard at every new song simply to save the cast from a scene that otherwise was dead in the water. This had the awful side effect of taking the wind out of the performers' sails and sucking a lot of the energy out of the room that they had done so well to cultivate during the singing portions. Luckily the enthusiasm and dedication the cast brought to the song-heavy second act was enough to slightly soften the damage done during the non-musical portions and end the show on a high note.
In the end, The Improv Musical is a well-done take on a now ubiquitous style of long-form improv that, with a tightening-up of the group’s comic timing and comedic synergy, could be great. As it stands, it's definitely an enjoyable hour of the festival for anyone that’s curious.