Thursday, September 14, 2017

Laughing Stock: Crime and Merriment

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Here’s news for fans of NCIS and Whose Line Is It Anyway: Improvisers Laura (WLIIA veteran accompanist) and Rick (TV actor, NCIS 2017 Ep. 1, e.g.; also Curb Your Enthusiasm) Hall team up for two shows at Unscrewed Theatre, 3244 E. Speedway Blvd., at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16. Tickets are $5 at the door, or in advance online.

The show will begin with a set by Unscrewed’s own popular musical improvisers, From the Top, with special guest Rick Hall. Laura will accompany. Then Rick and Laura will improvise a set with the students of an advanced workshop they are giving earlier in the day. Players may include improvisers from Tucson’s more sketch-oriented musical comedy group, Musical Mayhem. Mayhem appears monthly at Unscrewed Theater, rewriting Broadway hits into satire.

“I started in my early 20's in Chicago as a waitress at Second City,” Laura says of her improv career. “That’s 30 years ago!” It was a school job; she was working on a degree in piano, emphasizing composition. "I never really considered doing the music side of improv. But once I was there, I thought, ‘This is really cool! It was cool the way that the musicians functioned with the actors.” Hall went from being a waitress to playing for the Second City touring company, where she met Rick.

“We always had one musician and six actors,” Laura says. “What the musician does is more subliminal. We play transitions, like transitions in a movie that get you from scene to scene. We also play to underscore parts in the scene. There's music playing underneath, but the audience may not even be aware that it's helping shape and underpin the scene.”

That's got to require some pretty intense group mind among the actors and musicians. “They definitely have to be simpatico,” Laura says. “None of us know what we’re doing. We find it together as we go. The timing is what's challenging about it.”

Laura has proven the master of the timing. She accompanied six years of the ABC series Whose Line Is It Anyway with Drew Carey, then toured several more years with Drew Carey and the Improv Allstars. She’s also accompanied recent revivals in London and on the CW.

“People like the energy of musical improv so much,” she says. “You don’t have to be a fabulous singer. What you have to be is committed to it.”

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