In the 90’s freestyling, an improvisational form of rapping in which lyrics are produced off-the-top-of-the-head, was the test to prove a rapper’s true MCing prowess. With an accompaniment of a beat box, track or simply acapella, rappers proved why this burgeoning form of music was truly an art. In the theatre, the art of improvisation is nothing new; improvised performing can be traced back as far back as the 16th centuries across Europe. Modern improv is generally accredited to Viola Spolin, widely considered to be the grandmother of improvisational theatre and falls into two groupings, shortform and longform.
Fusing the best of shortform (short scenes initiated by an audience suggestion) and longform (a production in which short scenes are connected by the story and characters), Baby Wants Candy is an autoschediastical klatsch of epic proportions. A cast of rotating players breaks the fourth wall (generally a standard in live theatre) and asks the audience for a title to a production that has never been seen. Once one is shouted out, the actors and a live band construct a side-splitting musical that is guaranteed to be one of the blithest 60-minutes one will ever spend in a theatre. Baby Wants Candy offers an once-in-a-lifetime theatre experience; the scenes, dialogue and musical numbers are only displayed for that performance. If you missed it, then you missed it. But the silver lining is there is always an innovative, clever, inspiring musical on the horizon just waiting for the audience to name it. Baby Wants Candy is an unforgettable display of the human imagination.
Like hip hop, jazz is another musical genre that welcomes improvisation. A group of players on stage make an offer, inviting us to come on an aural journey of pop-up riffs and harmonious ad-libs. It is an offer most times the audience can not refuse. In improvisational theatre, an offer, which refers to an actor defining a scene, is also made. Once an offer is accepted, another actor will initiate a new offer and so on creating a spontaneous house of cards. Improvisers call this “Yes, And…” While watching artisans on stage, I also have a sort of “Yes, And…” experience. Generally it happens when something is lacking in the performance, but with this troupe of zany entertainers, I did not say, “Yes, and…,” I screamed, “Woohoo!” On the way home I had to convince myself that the audience member that provided the title was not a mole, which I believe is the greatest testimony to the cast’s mastery of their art. Baby Wants Candy makes me crave improv.
Baby Wants Candy will be performing Saturday evenings at the SoHo Playhouse, located on 15 Vandam Street, until February 26. To learn more about Baby Wants Candy, click www.babywantscandy.com.
Cast photo and logo courtesy of Noreen Heron & Associates, Inc.