One of the best things the Hayes Theatre has brought to Sydney this year is “a month of Sundays”, an initiative for alternative musical acts on Sunday nights. So far, we’ve seen up-and-coming performers like Blake Erickson (Hold me Closer, Logies Dancer) and bona fide leading men like David Harris (Time is a Traveller) in cabaret shows, but the form is flexible, and that’s best demonstrated by the current Sunday resident – On the Spot Musical.
This is an improvised, chaotic, funny spin on theatre making. While not cabaret, it’s something that plays fast and loose with musical theatre form. It’s a little left of centre but still perfectly musical, and it’s a really lovely addition to the line-up at the Hayes – bringing in a Sydney indie staple to the Hayes framework and support system.
The troupe is led by Bryce Halliday and Jim Fishwick (at the piano), and on the night I stopped by the rest of the cast featured: Bridie Connell, Lisa Ricketts, Rob Johnson, Robert Boddington, Marika Aubrey, and Mark Simpson: all were game, talented, and thoroughly entertaining.
Here’s how it works: Jim and Bryce are the creators of a new musical, they just need a topic from the audience. A night at the improv is a night at the improv, and there always element that survive each permutation of genre – there’s always the shout to suggest clues, there’s always a comic in the audience, there’s always moments of awkwardness on stage that remind you that, yes, things can become delightfully unplanned, and throw the actors off-balance. It’s all part of the improv charm, and the majority of the cast are seasoned performers. If you attend the Cranston Cup competitions, you’ll be familiar with their work.
Standouts last Sunday had to be Jim Fishwick (with nimble fingers on the piano and a wit to match), Bryce Halliday (with a sense of confidence in improvisation, a skill that looks deceptively simple though it really isn’t), and Rob Johnson (who was good in Squabbalogic’s Carrie but hilarious here, with a strong sense of comic timing). Mark Simpson, too, has always been an appealingly comic performer, and it’s good to see him here.
There’s hardly any point recounting the plot because what you’ll see next time is not what we saw this time; let’s just say it was buckets of fun, genuinely earning an adjective like “zany”. There’s real musicianship here, too, and a keen understanding of musical theatre song structure and performance; it wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t so able to embrace and execute the form.
There isn’t a lot around Sydney like this, and experiments in comedy, theatre, and music theatre should be supported. Go check it out while you can.