The debut of the spontaneous and eccentric musical-theatre spectacular, Impromptunes, was a success. To start, the audience was asked to come up with the title of the show. On this night they settled on ‘The Beer Drinkers’. The result was unprecedented comical genius, and the creativity and skill with which the performers instantly dealt with the topic was unfathomable.
The audience was taken on a journey to Germany, then France and back again. And it came with all the necessary elements of good show. Romance, suspense and comedy—a climax and a resolution. While the entire performance was impromptu, orderliness was definitely not sacrificed. Songs created in the first scene were re-introduced at the end—details that one wouldn’t expect from a spontaneous show. The song lyrics were relevant and at times extremely simplistic, increasing the hilarity of the show.
The talent of each performer was also standout. Their vocal and acting abilities were tremendous, which added an undeniable element of professionalism to the show. The actor’s ability to think on their feet was second to none and the performance was enriched by the instinctive humour. The performers were wholeheartedly committed to the show and brought all they had to the floor. They were also surprisingly resourceful, using their bodies as props and as visual effects.
The pianist was equally as impressive. Melodies of great technicality were adapted and spat out effortlessly. Sometimes the actual musicians can be forgotten in musicals, but this certainly wasn’t the case here. In fact, the music set the direction for the next scene in many instances, and the performers responded fittingly.
With improvisation comes some inevitable inconsistencies and stuff-ups, but these flaws were exploited well. The performers were down to earth and felt no need to cover up the awkwardness; instead, they made fun of themselves, instantly relaxing the audience.
The show cannot be faulted. If one were to nitpick, the side-stage directions could be reduced. But with a performance done completely off the cuff, someone needed to provide a structure. Emmet Nichols (the narrator) did this, for the most part inconspicuously.
The best part of the show is that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. Musicals can often suffer from over preparation, which leaves them lacking spark. And that is what is so refreshing about Impromptunes. It is dynamic and exciting because the element of repetition is far from sight. It is innovative and novel in every possible way, with a surprise in store each night.
Impromptunes will not fail to make your cheeks ache and your hands throb. ‘Sidesplitting’ is one way to describe it. ‘Ingenious’ is another.
Impromptunes is playing 20 September to 6 October at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.