This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
As should be obvious, for an improvised comedy musical to be entertaining, it must effectively combine humour, musical talent and improvisational flair. Unfortunately, with Baron Sternlook’s Big Naughty Improv Musical, all three are distinctly absent; comedic quality is in short supply, with only a few genuinely funny moments, the musical numbers are clichéd and repetitive, and the cast’s improvisational efforts, although admirably enthusiastic, leave a significant amount to be desired.
The show, being improvised, changes with every performance. The musical is titled by the audience; a hat is passed round before the show’s beginning and one suggestion is chosen. On this occasion, Banana: The Musical was selected, but previous shows have included Long Legs and Pink Knickers, Nessie Ate My Hamster and My Kilt’s On Fire.
As the cast develop the show’s plot, it gradually becomes clear that the musical revolves around a banana-plundering expedition into the jungle, a misplaced magical orb of time and a group of highly irritated monkeys. Sandra (Alice Weleminsky-Smith) is the female protagonist, who frantically slips between love scenes and showdowns with all the panache of the show’s eponymous fruit. Her imagination as the driving force behind the plot’s development is commendable, however, and although her voice lacks subtlety, her enthusiasm for the musical numbers is somewhat infectious.
Chloe Raynor deserves credit for the physicality of her performance as a bloodthirsty monkey; her swinging arms, hunched back and enjoyably gruff delivery are a testament to her versatility. Ciaran Allanson-Campbell displays a similar, if not quite as exaggerated, physicality and both, Raynor and Allanson-Campbell achieve a degree of stage presence as a result. Sarah Foulkes is also enjoyable as a troubled Macaw; she embodies something of Miranda Hart in her endearingly blasé attitude.
Musical accompaniment is provided by Director James Lovelock on the piano and Stuart Court on the Saxophone, with the inactive cast frequently providing backing. Technically, the accompaniment was entirely adept, if slightly lacking in audacity, but the majority of musical numbers were let down by frustrating tentativeness on the part of the lead and a widespread inability to master the admittedly tricky art of rhyming couplets.
Ultimately, however, the group’s improvisational skills were insufficient to keep the audience entertained for a sustained period of time, at least on this occasion. The show’s other failures could perhaps be forgiven in light of a more coherent plot.