As I wrote about before, doing musical improv is, let’s call it challenging. At least for me it is, if you love to sing and can rhyme, it’s a day at the beach. Even more daunting is the idea of doing a wholly improvised musical. I’ve done them, and tried to stay to stay in the back if I can, but this is not about me.
I went to see some friends in a Wingnuts show. Wingnuts was an improv performance workshop taught by Tom Soter where the class did a show every two weeks. At this point in time, they were closing the show with a musical.
To set this up, they would get a suggestion and that would become the opening number. If it was cheese, the chorus would be “Cheese, Cheese, Cheese!” And if they got shoes, it would go, “Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!” Not exactly Sondheim but it set up the story.
One of the things that was taught for musicals was the concept parallel construction. So if the two lead had a romance, the best friends of the leads have a romance. It helps to give the story structure and for an improvised musical, that’s a big help.
I cannot recall if they got cheese or shoes or some other item at that show, but they were selling it and having fun. The final song, which summed up the lesson learned in the musical, was being sung. Everyone would have a quick line, and then it was back to the chorus.
Given that these musicals ran fifteen to twenty minutes, some of the B, C and D stories would not always get a resolution but the cast would be happy to have gotten to the end and frankly, the audience probably forgot about those other plotlines.
This night, the B story would NOT be ignored. They are singing the final song when one of the cast, by the name of Rhonda shouts, “Stop!” Everyone does and suddenly the whole thing has taken on a surreal quality.
Now that the finale is has suddenly been pulled over to the side of the road, Rhonda announces that her story was ignored. I think it was about her and her boyfriend either moving in together or getting married, but I cannot recall the details. They proceed to resolve this dangling plot thread and then continue with the finale.
Having seen many of these improvised musicals, this is the only one I remember. While grabbing the stick just before you’re about to land is inadvisable at best, it took what would’ve been a forgettable evening and burned it into my memory.
To paraphrase Daffy Duck, “It’s a great trick, but you can only do it once.”