Crescendo at the Street Theatre

4 Mar

There’s nothing like a dinner out and some good theatre to cap off the work week.

Unfortunately, Boyfriend and I were both running late so we had to skip the dinner out, but we still managed to get to the Street Theatre just after 7pm for the 7.30pm start for Crescendo. The lovely woman at the box office told us that they wouldn’t be opening the doors until around 7.25 because they didn’t want people wandering in and out, so we settled in to wait.  As mentioned before in our Improvention post, the Street Theatre has a bar which also serves snacks. We picked up a bottle of wine which you’re also allowed to take with you into the theatre.  The doors didn’t actually open until about 7.40, but the ‘Street 2’ theatre quickly filled up with patrons of all ages.

Crescendo was being put on by the talented Canberra Impro ACT bunch. Basically impro (short for improvisation) is theatre that’s largely made up on the spot, with a general theme or framework within which the performers work. If someone comes up with an idea mid-sentence, generally the rest of the performers run with it. The blurb for Crescendo on the Street Theatre website reads, “The band plays reality theatre. You create original song titles. The band creates the songs, right on the spot.” I’d always thought impro on its own was hard, but couldn’t help but think that making up music on the spot – and an entire band making up whole songs on the spot – was going to be a pretty gutsy effort.

The first to grace the stage was character ‘Sammy J’, the band’s guitarist, who came out and started putting together a song. From the audience jumped up another performer, dressed in a cycling outfit. They began a bit of a stilted conversation but they did keep it relevant – talking about the recent rain and the normally dry Lake George filling up. More and more people began to fill the stage – we had a drummer, a bongo player, a ukelele player, a few singers, a guitarist, a bass player (‘Hollywood Dean’) and a keyboard player, with some back up singers – and the banter helped them launch into weird and wonderful songs. I did read the ‘You create original song titles’ as ‘You (the audience) create original song titles’. This didn’t seem to be the case, but I didn’t mind as the songs they came up with were quirky enough (most notably an opening song about chlamydia)! *Have since been advised that during the intermission (see below) the ushers got the audience to write song name suggestions on a piece of paper. Completely missed this!

The storyline appeared to be that the band was in a bit of a disarray before they had to play their big live gig, and so the guy dressed in the cyclist gear had called on a woman from Hollywood to come help them out (she had given some bands over there a ‘big break’ – that is, getting them gigs at some Holiday Inns). Her methods caused a little bit of angst within the band, culminating in a mishmash of a song which seemed to have a lot of barking in it. I am a bit of a deadpan face when it comes to comedy, but this song literally had been shaking with laughter. After the intermission, the band came back as if they were playing to a live audience with much reduced banter and a whole lot more singing and playing. There were about 10 people on the stage throughout the second half in a band (although I swear one guy who’d appeared in the first half never came back…).

It was well put together. Sure, it could have been a little tighter in places, but it still left me pretty surprised that 10 people were able to put a whole lot of songs together on the spot about some weird and wonderful topics, and have the vast majority of them make sense. I particularly liked that the singer very regularly changed – it kept things interesting. It was clear there were some people who were best at certain instruments, but they even mixed that up at one point, when one of the characters made everyone switch places! The standout talents for me were the characters of ‘Sammy J’ (guitarist and impressive singer – I wish he’d sung more) and ‘Pacey’ (it may have been ‘Casey’). While Pacey/Casey wasn’t the best singer, she was the best entertainer. The manager and the woman who sang the ‘barking’ song were also great, as well as being strong back up singers. The keyboardist was also impressive and I think on a lot of occasions he really brought the songs together.

Overall, a great show – if a little oddball. A good Friday night. And judging by the audience’s collective laughter and applause, they liked it too.

Date: Friday, 2 March

Attendees: T1 and Boyfriend

Cost: $28 standard tickets x 2 (concession is $22, as well as groups of 5+)

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile

Want more? Crescendo will be on again next Thursday 8, Friday 9 and Saturday 10 March. Tickets can be bought online from the Street Theatre or over the phone on 6247 1223. You’re guaranteed to get something different to what T1 saw – that’s what impro’s all about!

What do you reckon?

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