by Ryan Hubbard
For the first time since 1995, when Pinata Full of Bees shook up its traditional format, Second City has a show in which all the music and effects are performed live.
In light of SC's 50th anniversary, Second City E.T.C. musical director Michael Descoteaux (pictured) and director Matt Hovde decided "to play with some of the sonic elements of those classic pre-Pinata revues," says Descoteaux. The result is an "homage to the way it used to be." Everthing from sound effects and accompaniments to "needle-drop" transitions are performed in view of the audience in the current E.T.C. show Studs Terkel's Not Working. Music and effects for one noir-style scene are played by a band consisting of Descoteaux (piano) and cast members Christina Anthony (bass), Tom Flannigan (saxophone), and Amanda Blake Davis (drums and vocals). Otherwise it's Descoteaux solo, handling a "boatload of instruments: piano, guitar, harmonica, bass drum, snare, high hat, crash, cowbell, cabasa, and a Triton Synth."
The effect is striking. Sometimes watching an SC show can feel like attending a taping of a TV sitcom. This one is more immediate and, well, theatrical, which makes for a more engaging night. This isn't the first time Descoteaux has tinkered with the company's sound palette. For the last E.T.C. show, Brother, Can You Spare Some Change?, he bypassed the library of prerecorded effects and recorded or played brand-new ones.