A new show from ComedySportz mixes social media and musical improv | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A new show from ComedySportz mixes social media and musical improv

The Social Musical hits high and low notes.


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Don't pretend you're immune—social media have hypnotized too many of us into interacting with one another in the forms of tweets, likes, and comments. But there are downsides as well as upsides to their spell, some of which are on display in ComedySportz's new improv show The Social Musical, which utilizes Twitter for inspiration.

Prior to the show, each member of the audience is handed an instruction card with the show's Twitter handle (@social_musical) and a list of suggestions the players are seeking (categories, lines of dialogue, places, etc). As the audience tweets suggestions, they pop up on screens that flank the stage, prompting members of the improv team Caliber. That's the first downside: it's just bizarre to see audience members glued to their phones while performers are onstage. Caliber then uses the suggestions in twists on classic ComedySportz short-form improv games, including one terrifying concept that requires volunteers from the audience to give their phones to comics who then repurpose personal text messages into lines of dialogue. These are the moments that make people afraid to go to comedy shows.

The night I attended, things picked up during the second half, when the audience votes between two Twitter-given titles for a "rejected Disney musical"­—don't forget, this is meant to be a musical. Once we'd settled on "Pinocchio in Puberty," the cast was sharp and clever as they moved the story along, tweets providing fodder for the songs; it's a delight to watch them spontaneously weave suggestions into each musical outburst. This is an interesting concept and a talented group of people, no doubt, but maybe next time we could use a little less "social" and a little more "musical."

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