An Improvised Musical

KIKI BETTS-DEAN is reduced to a gibbering toddler of enthusiasm by a play that wasn’t even rehearsed.

andy brock Comedy Corpus Playroom emily burns improvised musical Jeff Carpenter kiki betts-dean rosie brown Theatre

Corpus Playroom, 5th March, 9.30pm, £5-6

[rating: 4/5]

The idea of an improvised musical is something of a delicious paradox. A musical without a script, a huge budget, flashing lights, and a tidy, feel-good plot simple enough to be understood by a moderately intelligent household pet, seems as inconceivable as a Tab without a Kieran.

So, what is left when you take these things away? The answer, we find, is a hilarious mess.

The premise is pleasantly democratic. Following the tried-and-tested formula of big brother Showstopper!, a setting, title, character name, and the title of a hit song are determined by the proven scientific method of shout-outs and cheering from the audience. After a bit of disagreement (Butlins was a popular alternative setting) we found ourselves in Ancient Egypt, watching the classic hit Mummified! The Musical: Drinks with the Sphinx.

The setting made for such quotable gems as ‘stop getting ideas above your pyramid’ and ‘oh my Ra!’. The best laughs of the night, however, came from the moments when the cast gloried in the utter ridiculousness of their situation. Self-referential humour conveniently pre-empted any potential criticism – the line ‘I don’t know what to say’ took on a whole new dimension of meaning.

From the beginning, the enthusiasm of the cast was infectious enough to render me temporarily illiterate. Whatever impossible theatrical situation they got themselves into, the cast plunged headlong into disaster with boundless zest. The musical ability of the cast was also more than evident. Even where individual voices weren’t strong, the ability of the cast to create catchy, harmonized and (sometimes) rhyming showtunes from thin air was undeniably impressive.

Jeff Carpenter and Emily Burns deserve special mention for their portrayal of the young newlyweds Philip and Jenny. It was impressive that they managed to develop character and comedy beyond the meta. Andy Brock as the good-then-bad-then-good-again Pharaoh, Kevin, was also a highlight, though it would have been nice to have seen more of Rosie Brown as his downtrodden secretary, Amanda.

Credit it also due to the musicians and the lighting technicians for responding to whatever the cast hurled at them with a flair of their own.

Yet after an uplifting whole-cast number, the second half flagged somewhat. By this time, the plot had become convoluted slightly beyond the point of enjoyment and even the cast didn’t seem to know what was going on anymore.

Inevitably, the denouement was only attained by aid of a magic potion that makes everyone good again. But let’s be fair here – the show was wonderfully silly, hilarious, and exuberant, its enjoyment only heightened by the constant risk of it all falling to pieces. Don’t miss the next improvised musical should it come to town, you literally never know what you might find.