Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: BROADWAY'S NEXT H!T MUSICAL Showcases Strong Performances in a Hilarious Evening of Entertainment

I attended a touring show at Georgia Southern University's Performing Arts Center on Nov. 6 called "Broadway's Next H!t Musical." And let me just tell you: this musical improv show was the most ridiculous, off-the-wall thing I've ever seen, and being someone who loves to laugh more than anything, I enjoyed myself way too much. My favorite song of the night was called "Dance in the Fountain of Banana Pudding," because for one thing, it was hilarious, but possibly funnier than that was the fact that my good friend sitting with me was singing along to this improvised song. Anyway, I reviewed it for BroadwayWorld.com...

Do you ever go to a night of theatre positive that you’ll leave there feeling something? Going into “Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” I was pretty sure the show would either be really funny or ridiculously lame. I went to a different touring musical revue last year at the same venue, and none of the actors seemed to be enjoying the show itself, or each other. It really is a horrible combination. The experience was painful for everyone involved. Even the encore at the end involving seven choruses of “Oh What a Night” just couldn’t redeem it. Fortunately for me and my sanity, “Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” was far from lukewarm.
“Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” is billed as musical improv. Yes, that’s a thing. Before the show, the event supervisors were taking song title ideas from audience members on slips of paper, and during the show, an actor would select one of the pieces of paper from a bowl and make up a song with that title. But not just that- the performer would make up a speech on the spot about the entire fictitious show that featured this musical number, including plot, audience reception, and anecdotes. See what I mean about hit or miss with this one?
As the host of the evening, called “The Phony Awards,” Robb Coles’ comedic antics- which included a satirically fangirlish commentary following each song- did not land with this South Georgia audience. Bless his heart.
The strong ensemble was a joy to watch as they embraced the complete awkwardness that comes with trying to improv an entire (15-20-minute) musical. One of their strongest qualities was that rather than skipping over obvious inconsistencies within their songs- like accidentally changing a character’s identity or ignoring a previously pantomimed wall- and trying to make it seem natural, they blatantly made fun of themselves. Thus, they created an intimate experience that made the audience feel like they were part of a joke between friends.
Deb Rabbai, who also serves as co-producer and co-artistic director for the group, creatively transported the audience to a magical world in, “I Graduated Today,” and seamlessly sang her improvised lyrics with confidence that made me honestly question whether or not this was actually made up on the spot. (Especially since it was the first song of the evening, I was still unsure of the entire structure of the show to begin with)
Rachel Bouton tackled a very fast song, entitled “Oh, That Perfume.” Though like any professional actor, she committed to everything about the song and the world of the song, she stumbled over creation of lyrics and struggled to continue any sort of rhyming scheme. She also began the scene with a Jersey accent that flew completely out the window by about the end of the first verse.
Robert Z. Grant, whose unusually tall stature (especially for an actor, let’s be real) was alluded to multiple times, employed a comedic, Dick Van Dyke-like movement vocabulary. Despite his beautiful voice and physicalities, he produced lackluster lyrics.
Easily the highlight of the evening was co-producer/co-artistic director Rob Schiffman. His creative mind is full of rhymes and childlike creativity that was refreshing. He listened to his fellow actors brilliantly, so much so that he could sing in harmony or descant with them and (usually) successfully made a well-structured musical number. The entire time, I could not decide whether he should go into writing or acting, because the former would seem a waste of a brilliant character actor, and the latter a waste of a brilliant writer. Thus, I believe he has found his niche in improvisational musicals. I will say that his vocals were wanting at multiple times, but this is the first case in which I can genuinely say that such a flaw didn’t matter at all. Particularly, he and Grant read each other very well, to the point that their scenes together seemed rehearsed. The scenes that they shared were the highlight. 
The whole evening had an air of childlike creativity and wonder. And honestly, it was refreshing to see such an uninhibited, raw production that was made from the minds of creative people just having a good time making art together and sharing it unpretentiously with an audience. There was an unmistakable bond between the performers and audience.
So I’m telling you, I was laughing the entire evening. And so was my friend who was sitting beside me. She even sang along to these new songs on multiple occasions. Neither of us wanted it to end. (Click here to read the full article)
If this show comes to your city, go see it! Easily one of the most entertaining and creative pieces of art I've seen in a long time. The unbridled creativity of it is why we make art in the first place.

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Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

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