BWW Reviews: UPSIDE DOWNTON at Jet City Improv Brings Brit-ish Fun
The servants are downstairs and the Masters upstairs and the scandals and secrets are flying. It could be another episode of the PBS hit "Downton Abbey" except in this case the scandal is ... well, you won't know until the audience shouts it out. As it is with most improv shows at Jet City Improv's "Upside Downton", the audience decides the direction of the story and it's up to the talented folks at Jet City to turn it into a Brit-ish (some of those accents were hilariously off) evening of fun. And while only half of the house seemed to really be clicking the night I saw, it still amounted to a great time.
It's just like the series with similar iconic characters. The stodgy upstairs Lords and Ladies go on about their lives trying to conceal their indiscretions while the downstairs servants have issues of their own. And sometimes the two even mix as was true the night I was there as one of the downstairs valets was suspected to be the father of one of the upstairs ladies. But then there were also two other possibilities because she was a naughty girl. Plus there were those missing cufflinks in Moyer Abbey (a couple of other offerings from the audience, the cufflinks and the name) and it amounted to a crazy send up of the Masterpiece Classic.
Under the direction of Andrew McMasters, the talented group of improvers, Molly Arkin, Jon Axell, NiCK Edwards, Randy Miller, Mandy Price, Ian Schempp, Laura Turner and Elicia Wickstead managed quite a few gut-busting moments. But it was really the servants that brought the laughs and the moments of improv greatness while the upstairs folks seemed to be having an off night. With a few too many pauses and looks of "You go. No you go." between people, at moments the show dragged a bit especially in Act One. Act Two managed to evict some of the opening night butterflies and it picked up.
But there were some who managed to shine no matter what time of the night. Price was absolutely priceless every time she opened her mouth as the lovelorn and overly blunt maid, Mildred. And she and Edwards played off each other perfectly with their innocent "will they or won't they" affair. Schempp managed a double dose of fun as the by the book butler Clive and then stepping in as the potential daddy and math tutor Michael with an accent that kept the audience giggling as well as a few cast members. Wickstead also pulled double duty as the housekeeper Frannie and the imperious Dowager Countess and shone in both roles. And Turner's Lady Rose was just the right amount of snarky mixed with desperation.
But then, that's just the show I saw. As with all Jet City shows, next time it'll be completely different as all the performers have both upstairs and downstairs characters they can be called on to play so you'll never know who are the masters and who are the servants. But then, that's the fun of improv.
On a final note, with the new year comes new ideas and so I'm implementing a three letter rating system for my reviews starting here. They range from good to bad with WOW (A can't miss), YAY (Too much fun), MEH+ (Good, with some great things going for it), MEH (Just OK), NAH (You can miss this one) and WTF (I think you can figure out my complex code there). And so for "Upside Downton" I give it a MEH+.
"Upside Downton" performs at Jet City Improv through February 14th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.jetcityimprov.com.