EFR - Reviews of Baron Sternlook's Big Naughty Improvised Musical

Baron Sternlook's Big Naughty Improvised Musical

Fri 1st – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Fergus Morgan

at 03:59 on 20th Aug 2014

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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.

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Alex Woolley

at 17:48 on 20th Aug 2014

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Baron Sternlock’s Big Naughty Improvised Musical was definitely a musical, and it seemed pretty improvised. “Big” and “naughty,” on the other hand, are probably not adjectives I would use. Nothing is very big in the Merchants’ Hall (the accompaniment of one saxophone and one electric keyboard hardly counts as a big sound), and “Bananas the Musical,” the suggestion that happened to be picked out of the hat yesterday afternoon, was hardly naughty – I’m not bitter, of course, that my own idea, “Kermit the Frog and the Anal Fistula,” was not chosen. Honestly.

The cast of this production are clearly young, and this was reflected in the quality of their show. The singing at times sounded strained, and the acting did not have the smoothness that makes for a satisfying improvised musical or comedy. The plot tended to be lengthy and unfocused, too – this will always occur, to some extent when a show is improvised, but Baron Sternlock’s Big Naughty Improvised Musical also lacked the punchiness of wit that compensates for narrative looseness.

Even so, there were plenty of good things about “Bananas the Musical.” The far-fetchedness one expects of an improvised musical came through – supplied with just the name of a fruit, the cast produced a show about a conflict over control of the epicentre of time and a magical orb, with a romantic sub-plot and a Planet of the Apes-style war between humans and monkeys.

Although the acting was not of an excellent standard overall, certain performances stood out, and gave the production some of the vitality it needed. Florence Schechter as the uncompromisingly weird Lady Cassandra was a particularly strong presence. Similarly, Sarah Foulkes gave an enchanting depiction of a macaw who was suffering from having to repeat its birthday every single day (or rather, the same day, which happened to be this poor macaw’s birthday, was repeating itself in Groundhog Day fashion). Ciaran Allanson-Campbell also distinguished himself as a convincing monkey.

Don’t go out of your way to see Baron Sternlock’s Big Naughty Improvised Musical. But if you are near the Merchants’ Hall at lunchtime and want to spend an hour watching a humorous, if not excessively competent, improvised musical, this would be no bad way to do it.

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