Sunday, September 11, 2011

Musical improv

There are few groups in Los Angeles who improvise with song. Following are three groups that perform regularly at iO West:

Opening Night: The Improvised Musical!, under the artistic direction of Shulie Cowen and musical direction of Michael Pollock, graces the main stage every Friday night at 9 with an hour-long improvised musical based on an audience suggestion. The music, which is the style of classic Broadway and which is influenced by legends such as Gilbert and Sullivan, Rogers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber is completely made up. The cast of singing improvisers includes Derek Miller, Norm Thoeming, Hilary Rowe, Matt Jones and Shulie Cowen. The keyboardist is Michael Pollock. Since the group has been together for 13 years, their impeccable timing and bold moves are guaranteed to impress, and their catchy and hilarious songs will never leave your head. In fact, I still hum a tune they made up a year ago about lettuce.

Sister Wives, a newly formed group who performs some of their shows a cappella, is led by Mishell Livio, coached by Anne Gregory and accompanied on occasion by Kristin Erickson, Ben Bromfield, Scott Passarella, Brett Knickerbocker and others. Sister Wives performs a unique, organic blend of Bobby McFerrin and Disney and showcases the talents of Jessica-Reiner Harris, Mishell Livio, Paige Tierney , Andrea Kittelson and guest performers, such as Erik Voss, Scott Passarella, Tiffani Ann Wells, Maurissa Afanador and others. Sister Wives performs in the Loft, the DCT, the Elephant Theater on Theater Row, Room 101, and this coming Friday at 11, the main stage at iO West. While this group is only a few months old, their unique brand of musical improv is already generating buzz.

Operocka, under the artistic direction of Marion Oberle and music direction of Alex Burke, blasts onto the main stage every other Friday at 10 with a 30-minute improvised rock opera wherein every line is sung. The music, in the vein of Tommy and Hedwig and the Angry Inch is created on the spot. The cast of improvisers includes Anne Gregory, Molly Hawkey, Ronnie Karam, Tim Jennings, Genevieve Jones, Darrin Yalacki, Eric Schackne, Hanna LoPatin, Matt Rocheleau, guitarist Eric Schackne and keyboardist Greg Jenkins. Operocka has been together for over two years, and their diverse and versatile cast makes every show a unique experience.

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