Theatre Review: Totally Improvised Musical – Sale Waterside Arts, Manchester

Featuring stellar performances and clever callbacks, Comedy Sportz’s TOTALLY IMPROVISED MUSICAL is a masterclass of improvised entertainment.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Improv comedy group Comedy Sportz is bringing their monthly comedy show, TOTALLY IMPROVISED MUSICAL, to Waterside Arts. The show is exactly what it sounds like—an improvised musical. The audience and cast turn up, the audience suggests musical titles that they want to see, and Comedy Sportz improvises an entire musical based on the chosen title. They then come back after the interval and do it all again with a new title!

This musical starred host Sean Mason, Chris Tavner, Rachel Wareing, John Cooper, Vicki Mitchem, and Ben Hodge. The musicals in question? Colonic Irrigation Superstar and Nursing Home Nightmares.

Colonic Irrigation Superstar stars Chris Tavner as the owner of a colonic irrigation clinic that wants nothing more than to run off into the sunset with his colleague, played by Rachel Wareing. How can he achieve this? By having John Cooper’s character perform an illegal colonic irrigation on Charles, the evil dentist (played by Sean Mason), achieve his license, and take over the clinic. Meanwhile, characters played by Vicki Mitchem and Sean Mason have an astounding amount of illegally obtained three-meter-long pipes they need to get rid of and a TikTok account that could answer the clinic’s problems.

Standout performances of Colonic Irrigation Superstar come from Tavner, Mason, and Cooper. Tavner’s improv is quick, hilarious, and wonderfully eccentric. He and Mason play off each other expertly, particularly in Mason’s performance of Charles the evil dentist’s song Mind Games. With their combined physical comedy and Mason’s surreal, bizarre, and hysterical vocal performance of Mind Games, they create one of the best musical numbers of the evening.

Another excellent physical comedy performer is Cooper, who gave another standout number in the form of the love ballad, I Know My Own Mind. His characterisation and storytelling offered a sympathetic note to an otherwise fantastically ridiculous storyline.

How the cast can put together a story and songs on the spot that is equally hysterical and harmonious is outstanding and makes for an ideal Friday night watch. Combined with the quick, upbeat, and clever musical accompaniment of the musicians, who the evening wouldn’t be complete without, Totally Improvised Musical is a masterclass of improvised entertainment. And the fact that the audience, cast, and musicians have no idea where it’s going only adds to the charm.

After the interval, we’re treated to the hilarious Nursing Home Nightmares. Starring Tavner as the manager of a disillusioned and debt-ridden nursing home, Wareing as a confused and crass resident, Mason as a retired war hero, Mitchem as fearful and forceful resident Hyacintha (who also goes by Rosemary), and introducing Ben Hodge as the optimistic activities coordinator.

Wareing and Mitchem gave standout performances of Nursing Home Nightmares, creating absurd and recognisable characters. Their performance of Is This Death? is the highlight of the musical, featuring two pensioners experiencing virtual reality for the first time, including dinosaurs and a black void. Wareing and Mitchem’s use of physical comedy and command of the scenes help drive the piece forward even when it lost its way. They are an unstoppable force, and Wareing’s ingenious inclusion of absurd backing dance moves to some of the other musical numbers ensures that every moment is fulfilled to the utmost.

The best bit of Nursing Home Nightmares is all of the cast callbacks to Ben Hodge’s reference to the Falklands being on the nursing home’s history quiz and his obvious lack of knowledge about it. With repeated references to the “advanced age” of those who remember the Falklands and putting Hodge on the spot to sing about events that happened in the sixties, this is the joke that keeps on giving and really frames the performance. The cast’s ability to laugh at themselves, to use a running joke for all its worth, and to bring an improvised piece full circle is outstanding and showcases improv comedy at its finest.

Totally Improvised Musical is performed monthly, and venues can be found on Comedy Sportz’ website. It’s a fun, carefree, and memorable night out that guarantees hilarity, absurdity, fantastic vocals, and catchy songs that you won’t hear anywhere else. They also offer workshops and short courses on improv comedy and their award-winning competitive comedy show, ComedySportz, which takes place at Waterside Arts every month.

TOTALLY IMPROVISED MUSICAL was performed at Sale Waterside Arts on 19 April 2024