Thursday, June 20

The Improv Musical – Gilded Balloon, Patter Hoose

Music Theatre Warwick, from the University of Warwick, have made the impossible look easy in this entirely improvised musical. The audience chose the two lead characters, Sherlock Holmes and SpongeBob SquarePants, and the location: the Titanic. The musical was named ‘who lives in a monocle under the sea’, by a particularly witty band member, and the performers got straight into it.

What followed was hilarious, ridiculous, and highly entertaining.  I particularly enjoyed the short mid-way break, in which the audience decided the next plot point. In this case, that John Watson, who had been thrown overboard, would arrive back on the Titanic to declare his love to SpongeBob through an opera song.  It was just as crazy and hysterical as it sounds.

Throughout the show, I was amazed by the skills of the band. The melodies were catchy, fun, and perfect for each song. For the most part, the cast were also all very strong. Each had exceptional comedic timing and were able to think quickly on their feet. Any time there was a little slip up, as always happens in improv, they played it off with great humour and self-awareness. If anything, these moments slightly added to my enjoyment of the show. No one goes to watch improv to see a polished performance! I was particularly impressed as, unlike a professional improvised musical such as Showstopper, all the cast (and the band) were university students. To have so much confidence and ability at that age is no small feat.

I think my main criticism is that there were a couple of moments where the improv felt slightly formulaic. Again, this was an insane feat to attempt, and it was pulled off wonderfully. But, by the third duet in a row about how much the two singers meant to each other, I began to feel they could have mixed it up slightly more. The break happened shortly after this though, and the performers more than rose to the occasion, mixing in solos, group numbers and various genres. The only other slight issue was that the singing voices of the two male cast members left something to be desired. Now, they were university students making songs up on the spot, so it didn’t matter too much at all. But when compared to the insane technical ability of some of the female performers (I was particularly amazed by the ease with which the actress playing SpongeBob transitioned into opera), the men weren’t quite in the same league.

Overall, while The Improv Musical, never rises to the same levels as its professional counterparts, it was still an unbelievably impressive feat from Music Theatre Warwick, and I would love to go again.

Reviewer: Ben Pearson

Reviewed: 19th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.