What makes this an “anti-musical” or not isn’t quite clear to me. That’s what Winnipeg improv group Outside Joke calls their Regina Fringe Festival performance, taking place nightly at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. To the beset of my understanding — an understanding I just double-checked in my handy desktop dictionary — “musical” means there’s a lot of singing. And in Outside Joke’s Summertime Party Jam! there’s a good amount of singing.
Not every word is sung, of course, especially since this is a completely improvised show. In a form that seems more and more popular all the time, four improvisers build a story from a crowd suggestion while a musician also onstage accompanies them, allowing them to break into song nearly once per scene. From that form and whatever the audience gives them comes the next hour or so of improv.
I saw it yesterday at the 5:15 p.m. The crowd wasn’t particularly big or boisterous, but Outside Joke managed to get the suggestion of “accountant” from the audience when they asked for a profession and ran from there. They molded a well-formed if outrageous story.
Like most improv shows, if I give you the highlights or even try and break down the plot in detail — a single mother accountant with seven sons who try and sell crack-lemonade to make money while she has a night on the town — will only make it seem pointlessly outlandish. Whereas, its outlandishness makes sense in the moment. Outside Joke aren’t as rigorous in following the logic of their characters as other groups I’ve seen, but they stuck with their creations admirably.
Again, I’ve seen a few groups who do musical improv, but I gotta say I’ve seen few who bring as much musical talent to it as these folks. The musician onstage sets out a instrumental theme for each scene, allowing the improvisers to jump into song whenever they’d like. On their side, the performers have some good voices and what seemed to me to be very good understandings of how to craft a song on the fly. I guess this show would more appropriately be called the whole package improvised musical as opposed to an anti-musical, although my alternative is a clunky thing.
The Regina Fringe Festival reviews keep coming from here. Check back on the Dog Blog for more from myself, as well as Aidan Morgan and John Cameron. The festival ends Sunday, July 8.