MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL: Spontaneous Broadway is high-wire comedy where every night is different, an improvised musical created from the suggestions of the audience.
For most people the idea of getting up in front of an audience and performing, or even worse singing, is a terrifying nightmare. But how much worse could it be than being in a musical where you have to make up the lyrics as you go along? Or even worse, when that musical is based on a song titled, “I wear my rubber gloves to bed’, an idea that two women in the audience (in this case, lets call them Fiona and Lou) thought would be funny!
It’s something the cast of Spontaneous Broadway pull off every night, high-wire comedy where every night is different. Even with the added complication that in this Melbourne International Comedy Festival season, the cast is different every night as well, with a variety of celebrity special guests joining the core cast for each show. What doesn’t vary is the edge of you seat mirth that come from theatre-sport style absurdities piling ever higher, the enthralling risks the performers take, and watching the raw exposure of talent.
It starts with the audience suggesting the silliest, most obscure ideas for a song they can think of – that go into a bucket before the show. Then the cast rifle through the suggestions and each chose a song. From that they pitch an idea for a musical to the audience and sing their chosen song. Then the judgement of audience via applause decides which of the ‘shows’ will be turned into a Broadway musical show for the night.
Thankfully, the cast are such talented improv veterans they can turn just about any wacky idea into a hilariously clever song. On opening night Scott Brennan, Emily Taheny and Rik Brown were joined by the amazingly versatile Mike McLeish (aka KEATING!) and Colette Mann for ‘Dirty Hervé’, the story of an obsessive-compulsive Mexican cleaner, hence the rubber gloves. Shaun Micallef added his own special brand of chaos, as the guest director, a madcap German named Klaus Von Bulow. Matt Parkinson held it all together as the host and the brilliant John Thorn tinkled out any and every musical style imaginable on piano.
Thanks to the scene setting of Director Micallef, Mike McLeish as ‘Dirty Hervé’ had to contend with having one leg, a Mexican/ Dusseldorf accent, an Austrian lover (Colette Mann, also with one leg) and cleaning Mt Olympus for the Greek Gods. Scenes jettisoned the audience from the highlands of Scotland, to the early Liverpool days of the Beatles, to New York with the cast’s accents having almost as much trouble keeping up as the audience had working out what was going on.
Rik Brown threw out some great lines to try and keep things on track and was a delightful Ringo Starr. Scott Brennan was welcome support as Rudolph Hess and Ira Gershwin (don’t ask me why they were there), while Emily Taheny’s fabulous timing, accents (especially as Peggy Guggenheim), and Irish dancing lifted many a near flagging moment. And somehow it all came together, sort of, not that it mattered, after all it’s all about the journey.
The show format originated in New York in the mid 90s as both a send up and a tribute to the musical theatre tradition. It has since travelled around the world and over the past decade has toured nationally in Australia becoming a favourite with comedy festival audiences. Opening night was a sell out and the remaining shows at the Fairfax Studio will fill quickly.
So if you’ve got a song title burning in your head that would make a fabulous musical, something that could beat ‘Don’t email me photocopies of your butt’, ‘I dream of rocks’ or ‘I’ll still love you after the operation’ from Wife Swap II
then Spontaneous Broadway’s the comedy show for you.
Tues 12, Wed 13 Matt Parkinson
Thurs 14 - Shaun Micaleff SOLD OUT
Fri 15 - Colin Lane and John Chaplin-Fleming (SWLG)
Sat 16 - Colin Lane and Rusty Berther (SWLG)
Sun 17 - Fiona O'Loughlin
Tue 19 - Wilbur Wilde
Wed 20 - Mark Trevorrow (aka Bob Downe)
Thu 21 - Jane Clifton
Fri 22, Sat 23 and Sun 24 - Mystery Guests TBA
DATES: 12 - 24 April
TIMES: Tue-Sat 8.15pm Sun 7.15pm
DUR: 75 minutes
VENUE: the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio
100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
PRICES: Full $30, Concession $25
Group (6 or more) $25, Preview $22
Laugh Pack $22, Tightarse Tuesday $22
* Ticketmaster 1300 660 013
* At the venue 1300 182 183
* At the door
or for more information see the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website
For more Comedy Festival coverage see our dedicated MICF mini-site.