Impromptunes: The Completely Improvised Band Musical {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Comedy Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I have long enjoyed musical theatre and would happily see shows multiple times. When it comes to comedy, improvised comedy is by far the best in the genre. So, what do you get when you mix the two? A fun-filled evening with an improv troupe named, Impromptunes.

Performing at Melbourne’s Trades Hall as part of the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Impromptunes is a completely improvised musical. Complete with a cast of six members and a three-piece band, the evening’s musical is completely improvised. Yes, everything is made up right on the spot. The lyrics, dialogue, dancing, characters, and even the accompanying score is all improvised. To say I was excitedly fascinated would be a gross understatement.

To get the ball rolling, Morgan Phillips introduced the concept and requested a title from the eager audience. Through the noise of the simultaneous shout out of several titles, Phillips landed on the title, ‘Vampire Caterpillar’. No, that is not a typo! It was certainly an obscure title, but apparently not the first Vampire themed musical that they have tackled.

After a stunning overture from Martine Wengrow on the keys, Caleb Garfinkle on guitar, and Bryn Bowen on the drums, the cast of Impromptunes jumped right into it with opening number ‘Vampire Caterpillar’. Here, we get our first look and feel for how the troupe take on this unique style of comedy. I was surprised by everyone’s ability to pick up on the lyrics and dance moves on the spot. Moreover, I was impressed by the musician’s ability to keep up and produce a sound that was seemingly well rehearsed.

Alexia Brinsley took on the role of Cecelia, a college student in the field of horticulture. Meeting with her teacher and mentor Professor Sharon ‘Just Sharon’ Greenthumb portrayed by Isabella Valette, fellow members quickly stepped in to form the personas of three plants that Cecelia have been growing. But also, these plants all have dreams of making it on Broadway!

Zoè Harlem as Roxie in reference to the musical Chicago, Jacob Kuek as Augustus Gloop, in reference to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Morgan Phillips as Audrey, inspired by the iconic Little Shop of Horrors. Cecelia was excited by her achievement in growing her favourite plant, Augustus Gloop and Just Sharon suggests that she enter the plant into a competition. However, a strange looking caterpillar had taken up residence on a leaf. Portrayed by Josh Burton, the Caterpillar attacks Just Sharon by biting her on the hand. Later, Sharon becomes a Vampire Caterpillar Humanoid and an epidemic quickly spreads across Melbourne.

I was blown away by the level of detail the six members were able to pack into such a short amount time. Not only were they able to provide detail through dialogue and song, but they were also able to expertly wrap it up with a big finale.

Some notable points of the show include the notion that Band-Aids can fix anything including the removal of vertebrae from Just Sharon’s husband Joe (Josh Burton), a full musical number of the three plants singing of their dream to make it on Broadway, and the Vampire Caterpillars creating human farms to feed on by using Chapel Street’s Revolver Upstairs as their base and MDMA to attract would be victims to the venue. There was even a chase scene where the only two props on stage, two red chairs, became an hilarious part of the show, and each of these segments were beautifully told through song.

One of the best comedy moments came at the hands of Alexia Brinsley as Cecelia. In search of a cure and in discussions with her mother (Zoè Harlem). Cecelia had a light-bulb moment that stopped the entire show, stating how the only cure for the Vampire Caterpillar disease was a mother’s love. The entire room, including the cast and band, erupted into laughter. This was followed by a musical number where each character that became infected, was healed by ‘A Mother’s Love’. Finishing with a number titled ‘Forget All Your Fears, Let’s Get On The Beers’, the whole audience was clapping along. I even heard some people seated around me, singing along to the chorus.

There is so much about Impromptunes that impressed me. The troupe’s ability to not only improvise comedy but make up an entire musical on the spot completely blew me away. Their communication with each other is seemingly unnoticeable, with the odd hand gesture here, or even a certain look they would give each other. Even gesturing to the band when they were ready to finish up the song with a big finale was subtle and very effective.

If I were to put the comedy to the side, the cast of Impromptunes are all insanely talented performers with the vocal chops and danceability to match. Vampire Caterpillar could easily have been mistaken for a well-rehearsed musical theatre show and that is what makes Impromptunes so damn good!

I cannot praise the whole crew enough and I am very impressed by what I experienced. And like many of my favourite musicals, I wanted to see it again. But there will never be another Vampire Caterpillar: The Musical, and that is what makes Impromptunes so special as every night and every show is different. Not only does this format put the cast and musicians to the test and keep them on their toes, but it also means that I can always return to experience something new.

Impromptunes: The Completely Improvised Band Musical is performing now at the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. With multiple performances each week, right up until Sunday April 23rd, there are no excuses! Grab yourselves a ticket, take your friends and have a hilarious and unique musical evening!

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