Impro Musical BangTown! – will it fizzle or bang?

21 January 2022

Despite the talents of a stellar cast of improv vets, Impro Musical BangTown! didn’t blow away David Zampatti on opening night. (But that could all be different tonight.)

Impro Musical BangTown!, BangTown! ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre, 20 January, 2022 ·

I’ll keep this brief.

Improv theatre is lots of fun to watch but it’s a bugger to review, simply because every performance is a one-off and its success or failure depends on things the performers have limited control over.

So though the Impro Musical BangTown! I saw last night was tedious, repetitive and meandering, that doesn’t mean the performance you go to tonight won’t be hilarious, inventive and have you in real danger of collapsing in spasms of uncontrollable laughter.

It could well, because performers of the calibre of last night’s cast, Alicia Osyka, Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd, Nick Pages-Oliver, Geordie Crawley and Charlotte Otton, are perfectly capable of having that effect on you.

The problems are the uncontrolled nature of the audience members’ prompts of subject and characters (and the first prompts aren’t the deepest) and the danger that once an improvisation heads down a dead-end street, it’s all but impossible to get out of it.

These were not issues in the first segments – a brief, snappy prêt-à-porter elimination rhyme-off familiar to all improv audiences and Cell Block Banga, a witty riff on the classic number from Chicago – which served to introduce the performers and get the crowd warmed up.

No such luck when the BangTown! team launched into its main act, a musical with the promising enough audience-sourced title Sleeping Upside Down, set on a movie sound stage with a lead actor (Otton), floor manager (Pages-Oliver), editors (Crawley and Nixon-Lloyd) and a new crew member (Osyka).

But improv gets harder to manage the longer it goes, and the routine steadily lost energy and laughs (although Otten’s “I want you to look where I want you to look” to the obsessed editor Crawley, while showing him exactly where she meant, was a gem). A convoluted and meaningless running plotline about cocaine did little to help, and, eventually, nothing did.

Sure, some of the improvised songs were craftily handled, the three-piece band – this night called the Toe-Jam Penguins – was tight and on the ball, but you could feel the energy seep out of the audience and the cast as the show went further and further into the weeds.

But that was last night. Tonight could be a ball-tearer.

And who’d be a reviewer?

Impro Musical BangTown! Continues at the Studio Underground at STCWA until 25 January 2022 .

For more information about the show click here.

Pictured are members of the BangTown! team from last year’s season at The Rechabite. Members of last night’s cast include Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd (centre), Alicia Osyka (far left) and Geordie Crawley (far right). Photo: Anthony Tran

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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    From an exquisite performance by Lior to mashed up anthems of gender equality, the opening weekend of the Perth International Cabaret Festival provides plenty of reasons to come hear the music play, writes David Zampatti.

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