Edinburgh Fringe 2010
The ‘lowdown’ to this review is going to be a disclaimer: I’m giving this three stars because the majority of the audience seemed to really enjoy the show. For me however, Baby Wants Candy are a group who did not live up to their own hype, and below are the reasons why.
The format is simple: the suggestion of a title from the audience, and the show builds from there. A few years ago, that would have perhaps been enough. But musical impro has come a long way in recent years – and recent fringes at that – and in my opinion Baby Wants Candy are no longer near the top of the heap.
The group are competant improvisers, and tick the boxes in terms of what makes good comedy impro. Themes are revisited, objects which are introduced are kept in play, and the story did form from the title suggestion (‘The Panda who came to Sunday Brunch’ on the night I saw it). However, in terms of what makes great impro, there were many misses. For me the biggest impro problem was the descent into sex jokes. I lost count of the amount of times various sex acts were mimed (there were a number of walk-outs at this point). Not only is this an exceptionally cheap way of getting laughs, but for a show that’s billed as ‘Universal’ it is frankly inexcusable. As well as this, names of characters were frequently forgotten, and characterization (accents in particular) were very inconsistent. Obviously, this sometimes happens in impro – and is enough to demonstrate that it really is made up on the spot – but I found the large amount of times that this occurred was unsatisfactory. Add to this a desperate repetition of fat jokes and a distinct lack of coherent plot, and this offering just wasn’t up to scratch – especially when you consider that tickets fetch up to £15.
And these aren’t the only problems. In terms of a piece of musical impro, the show is very weak indeed. I found only one member of the 6 strong cast to have a reasonable voice, the harmonies were all over the place, and a times all hope of tuning was lost. This just isn’t good enough for a show that is trading off the tagline ‘improvised musical theatre’. In addition to this, the people in front of me were disappointed to see that the ‘Full band’ advertised was a full rock band, and not one sporting the kind of instruments one normally associates with musical theatre. It has to be said, that the band are really wonderful, but this was ruined for me by the fact that the show was insufferably loud, and by the time I left the theatre my ears were ringing.
There are obviously things in what I’ve written above that could easily be changed. But I was hugely surprised that these were problems at all for such an established group. I think the main reason why the show just isn’t working is due to the fact that the format is tired. A few years ago it was enough to offer a single suggestion and run with it blindly into the headlights of absurdity. But those who know and love their impro will want more. Perhaps a director keeping the on stage action in check, or more audience suggestions to add some structure would help. But at the moment it’s just not working very well.
I can’t speak for other shows, and as I said from the outset others really enjoyed it. But I expected far more from a group trading of name which promises a ‘musical’. The best musical impro will give you everything you want from a musical – it just happens to be made up on the spot. On this ground Baby Wants Candy did not deliver.