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"Banana Pudding" takes home Phony Award

"Broadway's Next H!t Musical" delivers delightful improv show about imagination and potatoes


November 07, 2014

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    “There have been a few songs throughout Broadway history that have changed the world,” said Broadway’s Next H!t Musical improv artist Rob Schiffmann, just before his performance at the GSU PAC Nov. 6. “This … is probably not one of them.”

    Obviously, the citizens of Statesboro begged to differ. Though it was a close audience vote between Schiffmann’s number “Dancing in a Fountain of Banana Pudding” and Robert Grant’s throwback to the ‘50s in “I Got This, Mom,” Schiffmann took home the Phony Award for his song, and Statesboro was treated to a once-in-a-lifetime performance of the resulting musical, The Strange Boudoir of Captain MacGlar. We laughed. We cried. We went home changed.

    For those unfamiliar with the format of Broadway’s Next H!t Musical, the show begins well before the curtain. Audience members submit original song titles for the improv performers to select at random. As each performer takes the stage, he or she draws a submitted song title from a bowl onstage and must invent a musical number to go along with it, which they immediately sing to the accompaniment of a talented pianist (Gary Adler, cracked genius and Avenue Q music director during its Broadway run) who is also making everything up as he goes. After all four performers have delivered their songs, the audience votes on the best one and the cast whips together a musical to go around the winning number. The result is a unique, personalized show completely different from performance to performance — and ours was a real winner.

    The improvised musical of the night, The Strange Boudoir of Captain MacGlar, drew on elements of the Narnia books and Freudian psychology to create a surreal (and completely cracked) children’s story about a lonely, imaginative boy who is invited to save a world of his own creation by one of his characters: the enigmatic, kilt-wearing pirate Captain MacGlar. MacGlar brings Tommy through his strange boudoir (think magic wardrobe) into the realm of Tommy’s own imagination, which a dragon is threatening to destroy. In this magical land, where cows go topless and hurricanes rain potatoes, Tommy must trust his imagination, gain confidence in his skill as an artist and overcome the taunts of two mean schoolmates to take down the dragon, which turns out to be a personification of Tommy’s unresolved feelings about his father's death.

    It was touching. It was beautiful. It was, for a completely improvised score, surprisingly catchy. As in, I’m still singing bits of “Dancing in a Fountain of Banana Pudding” and the sweeping finale “Imagination.”

    The mastermind behind the winning song title was Michael Murphy, the creative production manager of marketing for GSU’s auxiliary services. He submitted several titles, including “Forget About Bob and Sarah’s Hamster," which received a (completely random) honorable mention by emcee Robb Coles. On the whole, he was incredibly pleased with the way the cast adopted his creative material and ran with it to create such a relatable, relevant show.

    “Everybody has imagination and childhood, and things that are difficult,” Murphy said about the show’s universal appeal. “And let’s not forget the famine, the potato famine. Very serious social issue.”

    The performers’ deft handling of their song titles, their excellent chemistry onstage and their good humor throughout the show (as they, occasionally, made life difficult for each other on purpose) combined to create a perfect storm (though not as perfect as a potato hurricane) of comedy and music. The only flaw of the night was that the theatre was not completely packed out. Statesboro, if you weren’t there Thursday night, you missed a fantastic performance. I, for one, will be singing “Banana Pudding” for a long time to come.


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