Covert Theatre’s Instant Broadway opened this week at the Herald Theatre. Posited as an improv musical where “every night is opening night”, the cast create a musical on the spot based on a word thrown out by the audience that becomes the title of the show.
Opening night’s word turned out to be ‘ectoplasm’, a difficult one to rhyme to – although Mark Scott did get to wangle ‘orgasm’ out of a ditty with an elephant at one point. This latter sentence is a perfect example of the downright silly fun that comes out of this improvised joyride.
It is difficult to review an imrov show, when improv is based on the premise that no idea is a bad idea. There may be no bad ideas, but there are certainly bad jokes. Instant Broadway mostly avoids these pitfalls – and most of the cast’s ability to immediately jump on board with a new premise or piece of information is something to be admired.
‘Ectoplasm’ is one part sci-fi musical, one part family drama – unique and never to be seen again. Evie Ashton does a great job of pushing the plot forward and trying to form an overall cohesive narrative as the dynamic mother of ‘Ectoplasm’. Ashton’s jazzy anti-heroine number along with Edith Fumarola’s love ballad and Wade Jackson and Mark Scott’s villainous duologue stand out as the most varied musical numbers of the night. The ability to come up with a song on the spot alongside a pianist is often inspired and deserves to be commended.
Pianist Mark Bradley does an admirable job of following the cast along – highly attuned to the nature of their scenes and the musical structures common to the musical genre. It is clear from the first moment that CJ Le Mon has the best voice of the cast, and it is a true shame that there was no real moment found to feature it in the performance I went to.
Of course one of the fundamental rules of improv is listening, and this is one area where I feel a few of the players could have improved upon. Particularly towards the end of the show, when the actors and characters needed to wrap up their family soap opera, the whole thing was in danger of completely falling apart. Although this may have simply been an odd character choice, the fact that Wade Jackson’s character had to repeatedly say ‘if you’d stop interrupting me’ is rather telling.
Listening is also a vital aspect to singing, and what marred a lot of Instant Broadway to me was the often off-key performances that featured throughout the night. Creating a song out of nothing is hard. It’s damn hard, but it might seem easier and errors might be more forgivable if Instant Broadway had better vocalists at hand.
Nevertheless, the audience was engaged throughout and clearly found it to be an enjoyable performance. I did too, although I often oscillated between genuine face-palming and full on bouts of laughter. Mark Scott was a stand-out throughout the night, elevating most of the scenes he was in. Attempts were made by the technical team to change the lighting throughout the show, and perhaps if more effort was expended in that area, it would improve the overall quality and move further towards that ‘Broadway’ feeling the team try to capture.
It’s an ambitious and impressive premise for a show, but perhaps just needs better execution to truly come together.
What: Instant Broadway
Who: Covert Theatre
When: 8.30PM, 14 – 18 May
Where: Herald Theatre
Review by Grace Hood-Edwards