Review: Songbuster — An Improvised Musical (Songbuster)

Three more chances to catch this hilarious musical improv on stage in Toronto

I just saw my first improvised musical and I was thoroughly entertained and impressed with the efforts of the company behind Songbuster — An Improvised Musical. After prying into the summer adventures of an audience member, the team have their setting and begin building a story and characters out of thin air. Suddenly, the cabaret space at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre becomes a hippy commune on Vancouver Island where lost families are found, romance is kindled and all manor of crises are created and averted! 

I won’t go much into the “plot” because if you have the pleasure of seeing the next installment of Songbuster  — An Improvised Musical, it will be something entirely new. After the setting has been determined by audience suggestion, the next hour is an upbeat and colourful set of improvised conflicts and resolutions that, to my astonishment, flow perfectly.

Tom King on the keyboard sets the style and tempo of any of the musical numbers and the cast uniformly acquit themselves well. There is a nice mix of solo, duet and ensemble numbers. There is an abundance of quick wit and masterful skill with phrasing and delivery showcased here.

As is often the case with improv, a good deal of the fun is in knowing the obstacles the performers face. With having to spontaneously keep the laughs coming, the story moving forward coherently and the dead or useless air kept to a minimum, it’s fun to see the cracks in the illusion, those moments when performers share knowing glances and suitably rise to occasion when some new element catches them off-guard.

This team is comprised of some very experienced improv artists, and they’ve been working this particular concept for a couple of years now and so the chemistry is palpable. I’m sure they’ve developed some go-to gags which they keep in their back pocket. I appreciate how even seemingly inconsequential moments have cute and hilarious payoff down the road. I’m particularly impressed by their clever and dynamic staging of the big ensemble numbers.

While there are specific characters I enjoy more than others, I did not find myself bored. Without any tailor-made props or costumes, the cast does a fine job of selling the goofy world they’ve built.

There are three more chances, once a month, to catch Songbuster at Buddies in Bad Times. Whether you like musicals or not, this sketch comedy team is a treat and it would be a shame to miss out.


Photo of Nug Nahrgang, Josh Murray, Stephanie Malek by Connor Low