I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, improv has to be one of the hardest forms of comedy to do well (although, I have a friend who would disagree; in her words, “I don’t have to remember any lines). To then attempt to perform said improvisation to music that is itself being improvised seems like a form of insanity, but those local treasures of the improv/musical scene Impromptunes are never ones to shy away from a challenge. They’ve performed with puppets. They’ve lampooned The Bachelorette. And this year, they took Melbourne Fringe Festival by storm with their latest creation, Hamiltunes: An Improvised History, each night telling the story of a well-known, but previously unsung hero of history, in the style of, well…Hamilton.
With the help of Wikipedia, and some less-than-helpful-but-hilarious suggestions from the audience, the cast masterfully and hilariously told (on the night I attended) the story of Homer (of The Odyssey and The Iliad, not of The Simpsons). So let’s take a moment to review these elements:
- figure from history with next to no research
- improvised musical
- you’ve already compared yourself to one of the most successful, well-known, currently touring musicals.
So, no pressure, right? What could possibly go wrong?
And yet…and yet! All these things come together under the skilful hands of practiced, experienced performers who have been constantly bemusing, amusing their audiences since their highly successful debut (also at the Fringe) in 2013. Impromptunes draw their cast from some of the most renowned improv troupes and training grounds, and that talent is very obvious; clearly this is why they’re doing sold out shows! Much like their other shows, a vast amount of awareness of the source material is evident for all to see, from their knowledge of the musical style they are parodying, to the character archetypes they portray.
Much like the figures themselves, each story is unique (though told in that distinct style) and never to be repeated, which adds an air of excitement and exclusivity. The cast never miss a beat, and it is commendable how easily they can transition from narrative to song; you could say they know each other like they know their own mind (couldn’t resist!) and won’t throw away their shot (okay, sorry) to leave you helpless (rule of threes) with laughter.
Hamiltunes – An Improvised History was at the Lithuanian Club. We hope to see it return to our stages soon!