Now … for something completely different.
I am speechless.
Or should I say BLANK?
BLANK! The Musical is one blankety blank blank ________ experience!
For me, this improvisational trip was an exciting, ridiculously interesting evening of entertainment … bold, brave, and brassy. But what a misnomer is this title, as there is so much going on within this show at New World Stages…. never, ever would “blank” apply. Rather this unique production is chock full of frenzied fun. Such cutting edge entertainment – perfect for a cold winter’s night. You can continuously revisit and never have a repeat show.
A singular host-emcee-referee, played by the affable, agreeable T. J. Mannix, a musical trio represented by drums/woodwinds/piano, and six of the hardest working cast members off-Broadway perform on an empty stage flanked by video screens. This intermission-less show is totally improvised on the spot, as determined by the present audience. This imaginative group of players is literally running on empty when the show opens.
Now I would love to share the plot with you however…
There is no script. Neither is there a book, nor music, lyrics and yes, you guessed it, no title. I am telling you the truth ….this talented ensemble flies without a net and by the seat of their pants. (There’s a reason the cast wears solely black and blue, no coincidence there). Now this clever cast does not make it all up as they go along – rather, the audience becomes the author, lyricist, composer, even the choreographer. It’s kinda/sorta like an electronic, elongated game of “Mad Libs” adapted for the digital age and accompanied by some rocking music.
This is most likely the only time in a theater that you don’t have to shut up your smart ass phone. You can participate by loading the app “blanktheapp.com” or join the BLANK! THE MUSICAL Wi-Fi network and vote alongside the rest of the audience members for the plot, song, and story suggestions presented by audience members. All ideas are encouraged and welcomed by our host, T.J. These are then voted on and the results appear on the large video screens. You know technology – sometimes things go awry. But this is such an interactive show, the audience is so much a part of it all, that the instant easy rapport between cast and audience is only a shout away for all to be set right back on track, nothing stops this show.
And so at my particular performance – and I emphasize that each and every night is unique and different – I assisted in the creation of a TITLE – “Kidnapped on Uber” featuring the clever seasonal SONG – “I Hope It’s Not a Turkey” which I think (?) was written in a vegetarian KEY – E flat minor, perhaps? The BOOK was “Brooklyn, Seriously?” which lends itself to the perfect battle of the boroughs. Amazingly, it all falls in place and Brooklyn is the new Manhattan becomes the theme of the evening. A new musical is up and running in a NY minute!
As you can well imagine, it’s really a hoot participating in the development of a moment to moment musical, which is normally a five year process from conception to stage, as noted by our happy host. But there is absolutely nothing normal about “BLANK! The Musical.” Nor is there anything next to normal remotely present when this frenzied, imaginative, witty cast gets down to it. On a personal note, I knowingly recall some raucous (albeit raunchy) performances at the post midnight shows at the uptown legendary “Catch a Rising Star” and the old West Side “Improv” club , not to mention the early SNL telecasts. This cast is up there with the best of these pioneers… AND they can sing and dance as well!
As further testament to the talent on BLANK’s stage – namely Katie Dufresne, Nicole C. Hastings, Tessa Hersh, Andrew Knox, Matthew Van Colton and Douglas Widick – they never – unlike many others working in improv – ever took the easy out and went blue. The night I was there they presented themselves with class, cheer and good taste. This alone will bring me back for another show.
BLANK! The Musical is running until December 14th at New World States on West 50th Street. A hip vibe surrounds this venue – Avenue Q, the Bubble Show, Illuminate – all play there. There’s a positive buzz the moment you enter and descend to the stages below. Take a moment to explore this unusual performance space.
Happy Thanksgiving week everyone, take advantage of this four day weekend and catch this show.
By: Joanne Theodorou