Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: The Greatest Musical You'll Only See Once!

Ever have a dream of writing a hit Broadway musical? Well, what if I told you for one night only you get to have a little part of creating the next big musical and all you have to do is scream out a suggestion? In the hip and never-the-same Blank! The Musical, the audience gets to be a little part of creating a brand new musical as six outstanding improvisers take your suggestion and perform a musical on the spot.
Blank! The Musical, debuting at New World Stages, is musical improv that busts out a brand new show each night. Like most improv, audience participation is the backbone to the start of a night of hilarity. But Blank! takes audience interaction to the max! Upon arrival, audience members are encouraged to take out their smartphones and hit up the app that will allow them to vote on the elements of the show they’re about to see. When host T.J. Mannix comes out, he compiles audience suggestions through shoutouts and then it’s your turn to vote like a tween voting for their favorite contestant on a reality show. Your suggestions will fill in the blank of the title of the musical, the songs in the show, even the key the score will be! What makes Blank! special is it’s technological participation. It’s a clever device that allows everyone to feel they’re a part of something unique. And unique this show will be!
Depending on who you’re fortunate to be sitting with in the audience will determine just what you’re about to see. I was fortunate to have a bunch of sickos who suggested we see “Drag Queen Restraining Order” featuring songs like “Not in My Back Yard”, “Tuck It In” and the bound to be classic “Patrick Swayze’s Liver.” But with six incredible talents on stage, they took these radical suggestions and created one of the most entertaining nights on stage in New York. The cohesiveness and trust within the ensemble made the piece tick. With chips falling where they may, each night you’ll get something extraordinarily different allowing for certain improvisers to shine. “Drag Queen Restraining Order” had standout performances from Douglas Widick as a tired old drag queen who gives out wild and long pet names, Katie Dufresne as Debbie Downer with Crohn’s (out of the mouth) Disease and owner of the restraining order, and Matthew Van Colton as the protégé drag queen. Rounding out the ensemble were Nicole C. Hastings and Andrew Knox as Walgreen’s employees-slash-lovers and Tessa Hersh as Debbie’s trust fund losing roommate. What makes this ensemble so brilliant and skilled is how with no preparation, they established a halfway decent musical that rivals some of the junk that actually gets produced. While the six actors shined in the spotlight, the band trio and technical trio deserve special recognition for their improv skills as well keeping up with the brilliant minds on stage.
Blank! the Musical is nothing short of entertaining. Musical improv may not be something brand new, but rightfully it’s shining on a broader stage. Expect Blank! the Musical to live on for a long while somewhere in New York.

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