(Every Movie Is a Musical plays at 8 pm tonight, Thursday June 19th, and Friday June 20th at Jet City Improv. Tickets are $15.)
The Hollywoodification of Broadway—in which blockbuster Broadway musicals only get produced if they're adaptations of blockbuster movies, like Grey Gardens, Legally Blonde, and, in a roundabout way, Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark—is a pretty easy target for mockery. Hell, it's the definition of low-hanging fruit. Jet City Improv's Every Movie Is a Musical doesn't bring anything new to the conversation, but it does revel in the absurdity of the trend by pointing out the awkwardness of the marriage between Broadway and Hollywood. The show disproves the title: Not every movie should be a musical, and just because you can put a song to a movie doesn't make the end result worthwhile.
Using the thinnest of plots to string its sketches together, Musical imagines the show as a series of pitches to an audience full of Broadway producers. Before the show starts, audience members are encouraged to fill out slips of paper with the question "Which film should be a musical?" and to drop the slip into a popcorn bucket onstage. Using only three stools as props, the improv actors then draw movies out of the bucket at random and make up musical numbers based on the films. They shift through a couple different formulas over the course of the evening: First they perform an opening number (the movie that was picked last night for this routine was Babe). Then they perform a movie from beginning to end (last night's was Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), they do a medley of songs from three different movies (The Day After Tomorrow, The Breakfast Club, and Mean Girls), then they mash a movie up with a pre-existing Broadway show ( My Dinner with Andre and Wicked, respectively), and finally they combine the plots of three movies into one mega-musical (Far and Away, Dumb and Dumber, and A Clockwork Orange).
Of course, the results are mixed; no improv group can possibly run up a perfect score. But the fun comes in watching the actors make up the songs from rhyme to rhyme, like Tarzan swinging across a jungle at top speed. Will the actor drop a line? Will awkward silence ensue? The cast is fairly sharp, and so flubs were brief and occasional. Director Douglas Willott also serves as ringleader for most of the show, putting on a pretty solid Alec Guinness accent for the Star Wars bits and playing an excellent idiot for the Dumb and Dumber routine (while other actors were trying to move the plot forward with their songs, Willott would cram the lyrics of "Hush Little Baby" awkwardly into the music, because his character just didn't know any better). The best actor on the stage is Kate Jaeger, who pulled off a cocky Han Solo, a menacing (and subsequently lobotomized) Alex DeLarge, and a few of the best musical moments of the night, including an operatic reading of "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen" during the Mean Girls sketch. And musical director Carl Petrillo kept things moving along with his keyboard, leading the actors into songs and covering up the occasional flubs in timing with an audience-distracting flourish.
The cast occasionally talk (and sing) over each other a little too much, creating aural confusion. A few of the singers fall flat at random moments. But when they're making fun of the conventions of film, Musical can be fun—-Jaeger exploits a famous controversy in Star Wars fandom when her Han Solo sings "I shot first/Never ever let the history books tell you otherwise." (At the end of the Star Wars bit, too, Jaeger won my heart by belting out the line "Episode IV is only the beginning" with great conviction.) Musical probably isn't going to win any new converts over to improv culture, but improv-friendly audiences will enjoy watching a well-practiced team of actors try to rhyme "always the same" with "Tattoine." To their credit, they almost get away with it.