BWW Review: A HILARIOUS TIME HAD BY ALL DURING WHO'S LIVE ANYWAY at Ruth Eckerd Hall
I'll admit - I'm addicted to "Who's Line It Anyway." From my first taste of the British version to discovering the US version on ABC Family to following its revival over to CW Seed, I've loved every crazy minute watching the talented cast make up hysterical performances on the fly. I actually wondered if it was some TV editing trick or did they really make it up as they went along. "Whose Live Anyway?", a 90-minute concert on January 12 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, proved just how incredibly gifted these performers were. Yes, they actually make up every story and song spontaneously.
With the talents of Bob Derkach on piano/keyboard, beloved comedy veterans Drew Carey, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis, and Joel Murray danced, sang, performed improvised comedy in a show that not only used audience suggestions, but also willing audience members.
Jeff introduced how the night would go, explaining that everyone was present except "the tall guy, the bald guy and the black guy." He proceeded to talk to the kids in the front row, joking that they might learn a few new words that evening. He tested the audience's ability to think on their feet by asking for suggestions of what you might see in Clearwater and ended up with gators, Scientologists and snowbirds. He then called for his castmates to come to stage, greeted by thunderous applause.
"Whose Live Anyway?" featured familiar games from the TV show like Freeze Tag, New Choice, Sound Effects, Moving People, Jeopardy, and Sentences - where audience members wrote down dialogue that the actors had to fit into a scene.
New Choice showcased a suggested job of security installation and somehow ended with a Joel in an invisible prom tiara on a super-secret upper floor. (I say super-secret as an abbreviated version of what was actually described in rapid-fire because my brain couldn't remember and poor hand couldn't write that fast.)
Drew went into the audience to find Heather who worked in a call center and her brother who worked as a dishwasher/line cook in a Greek restaurant. Jeff made up an impromptu Broadway song extravaganza about her job.
Another suggestion had Drew bent over for examination and Jeff as a Pinellas County jailhouse worker. Theme suggestions turned it into Shakespeare. It quickly escalated when horror was a shout out and Drew's butt cheeks became a monster, turned into romance and finally ended with Die Hard and Drew calling out the notorious line - Yippy Ki-Yay Mother F-----.
Hosted by Greg, Jeopardy starred Joel as Captain Fear, Brian as Keanu Reeves, and Drew as the crackhead Bobby, later teased to be Heather's brother. Drew offered an answer to What is New Zealand. Where they make the news... Newsie Land. Brian made Matrix sound effects and moves and ended the segment saying "I'd like to buy a vowel."
Audience members Danielle and May made sound effects for Greg and Joel as jogging rock climbers. May absolutely stole the scene with a sound effect of rockets killing buzzards.
Hilarity ensued during Moving People when two volunteers, Mary and Ashley contorted Jeff and Drew as musicians performing at a Jazz Festival. The scene escalated and finally closed with Drew and Jeff on the floor doing healing hands to one another.
My favorite part of the evening was Greatest Hits. The suggestion was carnival and Greg and Brian did improv of Funk - "Three Shots for a Buck," Jazz where they pulled up two stools for "I Heard Somebody Died on That Ride," and my absolute favorite 80s music like Depeche Mode, performing "House of Mirrors." Doing improv dialogue is already difficult, but to sing on the spot as a pair is entirely amazing.
The reactions of the cast members watching the scenes in play were often as funny as the performances. These fun, silly games were punctuated with hyper local comedy - 'don't joke about death. You're in God's waiting room' as well as current political satire that met with a roar of approval.
Just when we thought the show was over, the cast pulled Gabe, Heather's brother, on to the stage to be part of a fairytale. Gabe's description of a fire-spitting princess that caught both her castle and forest on fire was met with laughter from audience and cast. "In California," he quipped and with that the show closed.
Walking out to the car, the consensus could be heard that 90 minutes was definitely not enough time to spend with these improv masters. It was a night of much-needed laughter I will not soon forget.