First of all – let me say – Aotea Center’s Herald Theatre is really hard to find. If it wasn’t for the help of two excellent centre staff, it would’ve taken my date and I far longer to make it there. However, having managed to find it, it is absolutely an excellent venue for the show that came to be. For those who’ve never been, the seats are just a little too tight for a slightly larger dude as myself, but the steepness of the seating layout means the stage is very visible from all angles.
Now. The show itself. The concept is simple – some random from the audience provides a “title”, and the cast of the evening provides an improve musical around it. For God-knows-what-reason, a gentleman sitting a row in front of me suggested “hairy forceps” to the cast (members of The Covert Theatre), and good lord did they run with it.
It’s already quite demanding enough to produce something semi-decent with a good subject matter and a whole lotta practice in a non-improv show. Try doing that on the spot, with a ridiculous premise, and it’s a musical to boot. This really is stretching the talents of the cast members on stage.
I’m gonna go ahead and spoil the show for you – it was both the opening and closing night of that particular show, you see – and reveal how it was an absurd mash-up of Shortland Street meets Scrubs the Musical with a dash of Frankenstein thrown in. Also, a werewolf. It somehow went supernatural and someone turned into a werewolf.
There’s some seriously good comedy in it. At the same time, as improve goes, there were also some moments that went a little flat. The meta is strong in cast members such as Paul Paice, whose knowing looks directed at audiences create shared ah-ha moments of “this is my life now”.
The likes of CJ Le Mon and Narelle Jackson provide some gorgeous vocal work in seriously well-sung songs. Yet the most interesting and laugh-inducing performance has to be awarded to Mark Scott; having turned from vegetarian veterinarian into a live-action brain surgeon over the course of the musical play, his comedic timing and fish-out-of-water looks of innocence are extraordinarily great.
A live pianist provides music for the entire show, and must be applauded for his range of interesting tunes. It’s not easy having to create random pieces of music on the fly that would suit whatever occasion the cast demands. Having trained as a pianist, I know how difficult his job must be.
There are obviously parts that don’t work, but you know, they’re thinking this stuff up on the spot. It’s not rehearsed, it’s not pre-planned. It’s raw, it’s instant, and it’s completely absurd (the one I saw anyway). So I’m willing to cut them some slack, especially for the few moments of genuine side-splitting laughter.
At the end of the day, it’s an improv musical show. If you like improv, you’re into musicals, and you’re willing to accept some truly bizarre situations, then this would be the show for you. Take a look, you might be surprised, these guys and gals might just wow you with their songs.
What: Instant Broadway
Who: Covert Theatre
When: 14-18 May
Where: Herald Theatre