One of my favorite lines from "Family Guy" was when Quagmire called improv the "most consistently funny form of comedy." We've all seen improv comedy that falls short, but next weekend, Maui residents have the chance to see master, professional improv artists at work. Two of those performers are Deb Rabbai and Rob Schiffman from "Broadway's Next H!t Musical." The show, which is completely different for every performance, was created through exercises at New York City's famed Freestyle Repertory Theatre 12 years ago, and polished at the renowned NYC nightclub Don't Tell Mama.
The premise of "Broadway's Next H!t Musical" is simple. Before each performance, the audience writes made-up song titles on slips of paper and drops them into a fishbowl. Four actors then draw a title from the bowl and they perform the song as if it were part of a musical nominated for a "Phony" Award. After the four songs, the ceremony's emcee (Gregg Triggs) asks the audience to vote for a favorite and during intermission the actors create a full musical with a plot, props, costumes, and several original songs.
Every song is fresh. Every scene is new. Every night is different, and The New York Times calls "BNHM" "Hilarious!" Its cast, Rabbai, Schiffman, Triggs, Robert Z. Grant, Kobi Libii, Stefan Schick and Rebecca Virgil, recently performed at the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Musical Theater Festival and next week they're embarking on a Hawaii tour with stops in Hilo, Honolulu and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
James Shubinski photo
“Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” cast members will hit the stage Sept. 28 at Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
James Shubinski photo
I spoke with co-artistic director, co-creator and cast member Rob Schiffman last week to find out more about this long-running hit improvisational production. Schiffman has been working professionally in improv for almost 20 years, and with "BNHM" since 2001. In addition to Freestyle Repertory Theatre, he was a longtime member of the award-winning Chicago City Limits, famous for its drop-ins by comics like Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Rita Rudner, Paul Reiser, Brett Butler and many more.
I asked if one had to be a Tony Award or musical theater fan to appreciate the show.
"Not at all - I think sometimes there are a few inside jokes, but whether you know everything or nothing about Broadway, you'll love it."
Rob's visit to Maui will complete his personal quest of visiting all 50 states.
"We're so excited to bring the show to Hawaii and immerse ourselves in the culture, meet people and see this beautiful state that everyone raves about."
The production has been touring since the fall of 2011, visiting approximately 25 different states. With all those performances under his belt I wondered if he had an all-time favorite improv moment over the past 12 years.
"Last year there was a musical we created from an audience suggestion called 'Smoking in the Back Cabin,' and we decided to make it about Abe Lincoln. The title of the musical was 'Abe Lincoln Ain't No Saint.' Another favorite was a song title we drew called 'I Squeezed My Love Like a Bagpipe.' It became a story set on St. Patrick's Day where a man's greatest regret was that he got so drunk one night that he squeezed his wife to death thinking she was his bagpipe."
* Described as "a musical of, for, and by the people," "brilliant," "remarkable" and "sharper than a pound of cheddar cheese," "Broadway's Next H!t Musical" will be in performance one night only, at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 in Castle Theater. Tickets are $12, $25 and $35 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
Maui OnStage will present "Love, Sex, and the I.R.S." by William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore, and directed by Lee Garrow. Like a cross between "I Love Lucy" and "Some Like it Hot," this classic farce is the tale of two out of work musicians, John (Jim Oxborrow) and Leslie (Tom Althouse), who have been cheating on their taxes for years, claiming to be a married couple. When an investigation ensues Leslie must disguise himself as a woman. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays; Sept. 27 through Oct. 6 at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved seating tickets range from $17 to $28 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information, call 242-6969 or purchase reserved seats online at www.mauionstage.com.
ProArts returns in October with the comedy, "Bermuda Avenue Triangle" by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna, and directed by Kristi Scott. Two widows are set up in an upscale Las Vegas retirement condo by their career-oriented daughters. Trapped by years of unhappiness, Fannie (Barbara Sedano) weeps and Tess (Sharyn Stone) does nothing but complain. But that all changes when these two ladies cross paths with the charming scoundrel, Johnny Paolucci (Scott Newman), who rocks both their worlds. Fannie and Tess undergo a grand metamorphosis from being two, unhappy, complaining biddies into a pair of glamorous golden girls.
* Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays; Oct. 11 through 27 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $22 with kama'aina discounts for Hawaii residents scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12, and Thursdays, Oct. 17 and 24. For tickets or more information, call 463-6550.
ProArts will hold open auditions for its winter show, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the ProArts Playhouse. Jonathan Lehman will direct, with musical direction by Kim Vetterli. The nine available roles are for singer/actors ages 16 and older, by appointment only. Actors should bring their current resume and headshot, and prepare a two-minute vocal selection from an up-tempo Broadway tune that shows off their range. Sheet music must be provided for the accompanist. Performances of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" will be Dec. 13 through 22; and Jan. 3 though 12. A stipend is paid to all participants. For appointments, call 463-6550 or for more information. visit www.proartspacific.com.
Kamp Krazy Tales returns to Kihei. Join the Drama Queen (Kristi Scott) and Keyboard Kim (Kim Vetterli) for another drama/music Kamp this fall. Young students, ages 5 to 12, will learn drama games and music techniques, culminating with a short performance for parents. Advance registration is required. No previous experience is necessary. Kamp Krazy Tales takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 7 through Friday, Oct. 11 in the ProArts Playhouse at the Azeka Shopping Center. Tuition is $150. For more information, call 463-6550.
Maui Fringe Theater Festival 2014 is now accepting submissions. To be considered, email your original one-act play (60 minutes or less) to firstname.lastname@example.org. For complete rules, additional guidelines and an application, visit www.mauionstage.com. Submissions will be considered until Nov. 29, and the winning entries will be announced on Dec. 12.
Fringe productions should be simplistic, short plays, with minimal set and technical needs. If accepted, the entry fee for three performances is $500, with kama'aina discounts available for Hawaii residents. Chosen entrants will receive 50 percent off their box office gross. Maui OnStage will provide a box office, house and technical staff, plus general assistance. Cash prizes are awarded for first ($500), second ($300) and third ($100) place, chosen by a panel of Maui entertainment journalists. The Maui Fringe Theater Festival will take place from Jan. 31, 2014 through Feb. 2 at the Historic Iao Theater.