BWW Review: OFF THE TOP WITH JASON KRAVITS AND SPECIAL GUESTS, Crazy Coqs
We scribble down places, things, emotions etc that may be important to us (or, for the ever present more malevolent in an improv audience, awkward for the performers) and drop the chit into a bowl. Once our man is on stage in this lovely cabaret space, the fun starts as he fishes them out and the disparate words and phrases are woven into songs.
Thirty or more years on from Josie Lawrence et al on Whose Line Is It Anyway? we all know the schtick - flights of fancy (the bus ride to wait for it, wait for it... The Taj Mahal!), the unexpected but pleasing rhymes that we really ought to have seen coming, but never quite do and the slow starts as the band set the rhythm and the singer jumps aboard.
Kravits knows this too and so we get something a little different along the way.
His voice is pleasingly large, the kind that fills much bigger rooms in Las Vegas, so you can drift away from the silliness if you like and just luxuriate in fine vocals that belt out numbers in the style that Frank or Dean or Sammy might have adopted in the Rat Pack years long gone.
There's some fine parody work from the band too (though I can't help thinking that improvised melodies all sound like outtakes from Fiddler On The Roof) and they're nicely mixed against the voice, neither overpowering the other. That ought to be a given - but we all know that it isn't.
There'll be a roll call of guests to change mood and give the ear something added spice too. Ruth Bratt rode shotgun in the show I saw, her showstopping Showstopper skills to the fore, with some nice harmonies and killer lines of her own.
If I could have done without some of the more hackneyed links between the songs, the Sondheim section was a real highlight, his signature style skewered, as the crazy lyrics looped backwards and forwards. So too the big Broadway number - are those 11 o'clock numbers and "I Want" songs really so generic?
It's all done in just over an hour - these gigs have to be pacy - and we're out into the rain and lights of Piccadilly Circus. In these miserable January days - a new credit card bill behind the door every time you come home - a little wit and Yankee cabaret sparkle is just what I needed. You might too.