Wednesday July 23rd 2014

“Best Musical!”

Midweek Crisis! We all experience Wednesday as that day in the middle of the week, the one where we have worked hard for three days and yet, we still have two more dreary days until the week-end, when we can let it all hang out! Well,  thanks to the cleverness of the Porchlight Music Theatre, you need not experience that let down anymore. I just had the time of my life at their new production, “Best Musical!” a completely improvised musical comedy, now on the stage at Stage 773 on Belmont. This special evening conceived by Matthew Loren Cohen and directed by Amanda Blake Davis is a two hour romp that will have you laughing until your sides ache.

As you enter the theater, you are asked to fill out a form, on which you are to write the name of a song that has never appeared in a musical and drop it in the hat onstage. As the show begins and we are greeted by the very funny Cody Dove, our Master of Ceremonies, we are advised that this is an awards night and that five nominated songs will be performed for us by five unbelievable performers. After we have witnessed the five nominated “plays”, we get to vote as to which is the winner and then during the 15 minute intermission, these performers create a full 50 minute musical production for us. Talk about the ability to improvise! WOW!

Each performance will be a new show as they work off the sheets that are turned in by the audience members and each of these talented cast members shine in what they do. In tonight’s rendition, the five songs were “It’s All About Nana”, “Dinkey Donkey Song”, “I Have A Dream, But It’s A Stupid One”,”I’m My Own Sugar Daddy” and “No One Can Spoil This Investigation”, which by the way, was the chosen winner and refers to the mystery involving Jean Benet Ramsey. The musical they put on for the second half , while it made light of a terrible incident in history was a delight to watch and filled with lots of humor.

I have to say that the piano playing and music created at the piano by Matthew Loren Cohen was worth the price of the ticket alone- and yet, to watch this zany cast work was pure delight. I watched them with great care to see how they played off each other and they had very fea hesitations at all. It was almost as if they had rehearsed each little scene, which goes to show the talent that they have. Each one could sing and act- amazingly, the song which was used in the first half, a song that was improvised, is done when they do the final production , and to my surprise, they got it right! These are strong “improv” people, worthy of any Second City” review and this show could easily play in one of the Second City venues.

Many of the cast members are faces that are familiar to Chicago theater audiences: the hysterical Matthew Van Cotton, Brandon Dahlquist, who is just learning improv ( and doing a great job),Tim Sniffen ( who is very experienced at improv and it shows), The sultry Lauren Dowden and the adorable Erica Elam ( again, one can see her experience as she lights up the stage). These five people are as strong as one can ask for in a cast and I am hopeful that Porchlight will have enough positive reactions from this short run, to find a way to bring this back on an open run. What a great way to break up the week, and the beauty of improv, is the show will be different every week.

“Best Musical” will run ( at this point) through March 28th with performances on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tickets are a mere $15 ( yes, that is correct, $15/$12 for students and can be purchased by calling 773-327-5252, visiting the Stage 773 box office at 1225 West Belmont Avenue or online at www.porchlightmusicaltheatre.org

Thanks to new Artistic Director Michael Weber for making my “mid-week crisis” disappear!

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