By Dan Hayes, News Editor
The Savannah Comedy Festival kicked off with a bang last Thursday night with “The Big Cheese,” a wholly improvised musical performed by the Savannah Stage Co.
For those of you who may not know, an improvised musical means everything was made up on the spot. All songs, stage direction, dialogue, and even characters were invented right in front of the audience. That is quite a terrifying notion for any actor or musician. But the Savannah Stage Co. made it look easy.
Thursday night’s show was opened by John Brennan and Brianne Halverson, the co-founders of the festival and founding members of Savannah’s own Front Porch Improv.
The duo acted out an improvised scene that found two strangers sharing a conversation aboard a subway train that was oddly full of pregnant women. The scene ended with a great piece of advice for men all over the world, never ask a woman if she is pregnant. It was a great piece of long-form improv and prepared the crowd for a great opening night.
The festival is now in its second year and as with the first, Halverson and Brennan have managed to lure a heavy cast of characters down to the ‘creative coast’. “We have a heavy lineup again this year with troupes and shows from Chicago, New York, and Atlanta” noted Brennan. When asked how he got such big acts to come down south Brennan stated that it was a community effort. “We found them places to stay, food to eat, and drinks to enjoy” adding that “you can’t overstate the pull of Savannah in January.”
This was the second year that Savannah Stage Co. has brought their, (it’s) B.I.G the Improvised Musical to the festival. The musical is built off suggestions from the audience including, genres of music, title, main character, and the main character’s big dream. The show centered around main character Sally and her dream to be cheese-maker.
The musician duo of Wesley Pridgen and Ellen Sherrod amply handled the ten different genres ranging from disney musical, funk, reggae, salsa, spoken-word, and hip hop. All the musical accompaniment went off without a hitch.
Though, the undisputed stars of the show were the five fearless females who took the stage. Maria Isabelle Cain, Joanna Walchuck Aprea, Melanie Goldey, Cyndei Prathers, and Mckenna Lyons all performed flawlessly. Artistic director Jayme Tinti said the choice of an all-women cast was “not a deliberate one but rather one of happy coincidence. We didn’t set out to put forth and all-women cast it just happened” claims Tinti. “When we thought about our bravest and most seasoned performers these five awesome girls came up, and we couldn’t be more happy for them” adds Tinti.
Savannah Stage Co. is entering its sixth year and already has a loaded calendar for 2018. They will have open auditions in the spring and Jayme wants to encourage Armstrong students to come out and enjoy the fun. “We are always looking for actors or production and marketing interns”, and Tinti wishes to expand the local talent base, adding “everyone always focuses on the one downtown art school, but we love Armstrong and want to encourage them to come and join us”. All the info about Savannah Stage Co., including upcoming shows and auditions can be found at www.savannahstagecompany.com.
When Front Porch is not busy organizing and hosting Savannah’s only comedy festival they can be found at their home stage inside the Bull Street Labs. Multiple nights a week you will find the troupe performing a variety of improvised and scripted comedy shows. Check out their website www.frontporchimprov.com for more info.