Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Based strictly on audience suggestions, improv actors and band make up a West End-style musical on the spot.
The show begins with an engaging MC inviting the audience to yell out suggestions for a theme for a new musical. The night I attended included theme ideas “Pippa”, “Pedophile”, “Phone Box Repairman”, and others. Then the audience is invited to vote for their favourite title. “Phone Box Repairman: The Musical” won. Now the actors get to work to make a show.
From beginning to end, the performance is engaging and hilarious. The six actors, three male and three female, rotate taking the lead on songs. Like a typical West End or Broadway show, there are torch songs, anthems, and comic relief pieces. Each song is made on the spot and is unique. Once the song leader establishes a chorus, others join in with harmonies and choreography.
The actors cleverly use the chosen theme and integrate funny lines into their dialogue. For “Phone Box Repairman”, some of my favourites were the song “Calling in Love”, “personal connections”, “wraps around me like a long phone cord”, and “the number was wrong”. The dialogue is filled with puns that even get a chuckle out of the actors. And, of course, like a Broadway musical song, everything has to rhyme, so they create some funny lines that stretch the definition of rhyme. They even manage to fit in references to the shows that were nominated but not chosen, often referencing “Ped” as a proposed pedophile character in one of the proposed plays.
Characters portrayed fit the phone box theme. There is the lonely woman who is attracted to the phone box repairman and continually finds excuses to have him come out to her house. There is the competing phone box repair company, run by a tough lady who is determined to put the phone box repairman out of business. There are pratfalls and dancing, always keeping the show moving along. The band deftly composes the songs with the actors on the spot, following their stylings. There is even a rap battle between actors. Throughout, the jokes are plentiful.
There are many improvised musicals running at the Fringe. Each is unique. This cast has clearly perfected the art of writing on the fly. Their chemistry on stage translates into excellent timing.
It is clear that the actors are having fun. And when the cast has fun, so does the audience. It is very funny and entertaining, deserving of the standing ovation received at the end.
This version is not intended for young audiences.