Show Stopping Number at the Fringe Blog by Suga Jam

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Current mood:  artistic
Category: Music

July 3, 2007

This was the first day we all came to the Tranzac together to do our improvised musical. The cast is made up of some of the best improvisers from the Bad Dog Theatre Company and Second City. We are doing eleven performances in a row and we are essentially writing eleven musicals. Last year, at this time, I was losing my mind trying to drive a truck across town with all the props from Plan “LIVE” From Outer Space. I remember thinking that the next time I do a Fringe show I’m going to have less props. Well, it turns out that Show Stopping Number is that show.

It was great to see everyone come through the doors with excited faces. One thing for sure, there never seems to be a bad vibe with this cast. And trust me, the improv world is full of the most bizarre politics sometimes. It is a breath of fresh air to work with such a talented cast. Sometimes I cannot believe I am working with these people. They are truly at the top of their craft, willing to put everything they have out there, whether it works or not. It was also great to see Steve the technician from last year. Always positive and professional, and playing good music.

I was lucky enough to have taped the rehearsal where we did a 30 minute version of the show which this time was called The Puppeteers Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex Show (this is what happens when the director calls out the suggestions). Of course it went into all sorts of bizarre directions such as the Puppeteer being hired by the Nazi Party to create propaganda for schools. Then Aurora started singing as a child with polio as I played a toy music box patch. Watching this back it almost brought a tear to my eye as Aurora changes the mind of the Nazi Puppeteer with her song. And this was just a rehearsal! Often the best stuff we do is in the relaxed atmosphere of a rehearsal, with no pressure of the show. This is when I realized that I am in the presence of a whole bunch of great songwriters who have chosen to work with me. It is such an honour.

July 4/07

First day of the show. Fireworks were about to go off. I spent the day in a state of anxiety about the show. As much fun as this show is, there is no shortage of sweat. I mean, we really are making this musical up on the spot and there is a pressure for it to be good. Not to mention the ever present politics of the sketch company across town always trying to throw a wrench into everything. Just one more reason to rip that shirt off my chest and show the numbers. I have decided to leap off the stage for my line in the opening number. If I could I would fly across the stage on a rope, but its not an ideal world.

It was amazing how little time we had to set up. You get in there, you have ten minutes which, if you have a giant keyboard like I do, isn’t always the easiest of things to do. it also creates more sweat, and I’m wearing this stupid wig and Jamillah’s writing the numbers on my chest in eyeliner, and then all of a sudden we’re off and I forgot to switch on the camera. Too bad too, because this was a good one. I wrote a brief synopsis of each of the shows we write on the Facebook group, but it was called the Meter Maid’s Graduation Day which had an amazing group dance number of a Meter Maid Ticket off! At one point I looked at the audience and just saw beaming faces, disbelief that we are making this all up.

The audience gave us an encore, which was a surprise to us, and also a surprise that there were as many people as there were on a wednesday night. I hope this means good things for us. Afterwards I left with a heavy heart as Monkey Toast set up with a new music director. Everything happens for a reason, but it didn’t really make me feel like going back to the tent. Save it for the weekend.

July 5/07

The show started a bit earlier today. I went and put some reviews up at the Fringe tent in the afternoon. The stress of opening my e-mail account and wondering what it holds for me was relieved when I saw that both EYE magazine and NOW Magazine had given us good reviews and put us in their picks sections. This makes me so much more relaxed about promotion let me tell you.

The cast has taken to warming up in the alleyway. We waved and said hello to Glenn Sumi as he walked by. This is a good place to warm up because it also alerts everyone at the Fringe tent that we are about to do a show. We did our quick set up and said hello. Tonight the show was called “The Lawyer’s Fringe Festival”. The suggestion is always an event and an occupation. Sandy played a lawyer who gets seduced by the world of the Fringe one night when he is in the audience. He ends up doing a one woman show and then questioning his own sexuality. My Auntie Carole and my dad were also in the audience. Again I left quickly and didn’t return. Glad the show is up, now it’s time to nurse the injury and recover from the previous weeks trauma.

July 6, 2007

Today Jamillah and I spent the afternoon in Forest Hill Village. I’ve learned that Starbucks does not like to put up our poster, but The Second Cup will. I guess that’s the difference between a home grown Canadian company and an American company. The American company doesn’t care about the community, and the Canadian one does. So I am boycotting the Forest Hill Starbucks. The comedy world is like this too. The American company is difficult, and the Canadian one is grassroots and cares about the comedy community.

Tonight the cast sat in the beer tent of the Fringe and we had a serious meeting about things we can do to improve. It is amazing how we can do this with no one’s feelings getting hurt. Tonight the musical was called The Detective’s Wedding. Immediately the story went back in time to the 40s and I realized that I was in film noir type genre. Then I realized I had to make up every song in a 40s style. Yikes.

Greg Komorowski did his first show with us and he played the lead and pulled it off with flying colours as expected. Aurora was the love interest. Jamillah and Sandy satirized racial stereotypes. The usual craziness. I thought we were very focused in this show. The look on the audience’s face is worth it every time. It all came to a rousing finish. Today I decided not to warm up my playing and I think it worked.

Afterwards I came home and grabbed some posters and went back down to the Fringe tent where there were the usual faces that are there every year. Not sure I wanted to talk to all of them either. All of the spots for posters are taken and I don’t know what else I can do to promote this show.

July 7/07

I spent the day putting up posters of reviews at other Fringe theatres. When I do the Fringe it makes me feel like I’m at U of T again with the smell of Cora’s pizza and the daytime traffic tickets (damnit!). Whenever I do a show I always feel like there is more I can do to promote. Especially with all these great quotes. Other than the show it was a fairly uneventful day.

The suggestion tonight was The Undertaker’s Bris. I didn’t know what a Bris was but slowly figured it out as we wrote the musical. Ashley Botting played a Jewish girl who wants to date outside of her faith and falls for a Unitarian undertaker – whose insane work life involves zombies. In order to marry his true love he has to prove he can become Jewish, and since it’s a Bris you can imagine how that happened. The songs were great as always and we had a full house. We even had an encore. This is the most artisitically satisfying Fringe I’ve ever been a part of.

There is a little bit of drama going on with our stage manager situation which hopefully will be cleared up tonight. Suffice it to say that the Fringe uses up a lot of Bad Dog technician/stage managers and since the Bad Dog is still open, obviously, while we are doing our Bad Dog Fringe show there was an inevitable scheduling conflict.

Even though this has been an artistically satisfying Fringe, it has also been the worst Fringe for me socially. I have basically been a recluse, only having gone to the Fringe tent once after a performance. Once again I had to stay away since some people insist on flaunting their sordid affairs.

July 8/07

I was stuck in Scarborough all day, which is a terrible feeling. I was happy to get back downtown to the sights and smells of the Fringe Festival. We had an early show again today. Rob Hawke brought his guitar and we decided he would play with me for the whole show, which is amazing if you ask me. It became a band tonight. Luckily the suggestion was The Coalminer’s Funeral and took place in Kentucky in 1957. The acoustic guitar fit the style perfectly. I was so focused on the music that I had to get Jamillah to give me a rundown on the whole story later on. A lot of friends in the audience. It is great to get this support. We were all pretty happy with how this one came off. Sandy did a great job as narrator. But there is no weak link in this cast.

Afterwards I watched Chris Gibb’s show which is always either after us or before us. It is a brilliant one man show. I really enjoyed his show last year as well. And he was great in Plan “LIVE” From Outer Space which I co-produced and music directed. I sat with Nug, Paul and Christy. Afterwards I came back to the tent and had some ice cream and a burger and chatted with the cast about the future of the show.

July 9/2007

Spent the day trying not to be so anxious about the show. When Jamillah and I got to the beer tent we saw our friend Kerry Ann who I’ve known since elementary school. She is doing Betrayal at the Fringe.

Doug Morency told us that he heard someone saying that the way we do our musical is we just improvise a show and we have some set songs that we try and work in. This is a pretty common thing with improv. Often people don’t believe that you are really making it up. As if it would be easier to write the songs beforehand and try and work them into a show where they probably wouldn’t fit. It’s both a compliment and an insult at the same time. It’s a compliment because that means that’s how good they thought it was – that we wrote it beforehand. It’s an insult because they think we are trying to fool people. Trust me, if it wasn’t really improvised I wouldn’t be crapping my pants five hours before the show. Imagine the pressure of writing up to ten new songs a night. I couldn’t do it without the geniuses.

My family and some of their friends came to this show. One of them has MS and so they came in early and watched us do the opening number (the only-pre written song). THen the house came in and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I thought because it was a Monday that our audiences might taper off – but this was our biggest house yet. And it has also been surprising me who has been coming to this show. Some people who I never thought would come in a million years showed up.

Tonight we got the Caterer’s Birthday as a suggestion. So far this is the only birthday storyline we’ve done at the Fringe. I think we took that suggestion in our first run. I think it was called the Sailor’s Birthday. The highlight of the show was watching Jan Caruana sing a solo as Doug Morency’s penis. You never know what is going to happen with these crazies. I was so pleased to see some of the friends that came to the show and I wish I had more time to see everyone elses shows but Show Stopping Number is doing me in night after night. Jamillah stayed for Monkey Toast, where Carmine was interviewed for our show (why didn’t someone ask me?) and then she attempted to stay for Karaoke, but she was dissapointed in the music selection. I came by and picked her up. Now we have officially gotten over the hump. We are more than halfway through. We have written six musicals in a row.

End of Part 1


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