Who: The Understudies
What: Swipe Right for Love: A Musical Improv Show
Where: Staircase Cafe Theatre, Elaine Mae Theatre (27 Dundurn Street North)
When: July 18-28, various dates & times (as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival)
It was a dark and stormy night on Saturday, which may have, at least, partially explained the modest crowd that attended The Understudies latest show, Swipe Right for Love, a remount of a Fringe show from two years ago, with a twist – they’ve added a musical component to it.
The format is fairly inventive: a series of short-form improv scenes, some with singing, along with a 15-minute musical, featuring characters of the audience’s choosing going on a date. The audience gets to choose which characters the cast have created go on dates by shouting “Swipe Right.” As a result of these audience choices, we got to see dates involving a mermaid, a failed superhero named “Mediocre Man,” a genuine botanist (those fraudulent botanists are the worst), a guy named Dane, who’s a Dane and eats Danishes, a guy with severe allergies and a dentist with a twitchy eye.
We ended with a musical named “Barton Street” that was too on the nose and featured once of the most ridiculous names for a child that was clearly the result of a brain freeze by one performer that the other performers latched onto and revived again and again.
The Understudies have become, in just three years, veterans of the Hamilton improv scene, and very accomplished at character development and scene work, but also at taking ridiculous situations and milking them for laughs. As with all comedy (especially improv) a hot crowd helps, and the crowd was giving great suggestions that helped feed the material, but The Understudies have proven adept at playing in front of 12 or 60, and that’s a great skill to have.
One weakness in the show was a game called “Sounds Like a Song,” which is based on a game from “Whose Line is it Anyway?” that requires someone (usually a host, but sometimes a cast member) to call out “sounds like a song!” at a certain point in the scene and the performer breaks into song based on their last line spoken. The Understudies ran through a couple of scenes during this game where no one called out this key phrase, defeating the purpose of the game. Other than this, the show was highly entertaining.
Chances are, the show you would see will be completely different from the one on Saturday night, but the quality will still be the same, and The Understudies have demonstrated to deliver a quality comedy show again and again.