Inside Impromptunes, an improvised musical troupe – part of Bondi Feast 18-29 July

Over 10 nights and 90 performances, Bondi Feast offers a promising line-up of artists to shake off Sydney’s winter blues – and in 2017, it’s bigger and better than ever with 158 artists performing at the iconic Bondi Pavilion. Ranging from comedy, theatre, music, visual arts and food, there’s something for the young, old and everyone-in-between.

Included within this wide diversity of entertainment is Impromptunes – an improvised musical troupe who are performing in Sydney for the first time, after having travelled around cities across the country and abroad, notably to a sold-out crowd at Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. Aussie Theatre sat down to chat with the Company Director, Emmett Nichols, to find out a more about Impromptunes and its upcoming run at Bondi Feast.

What is the premise of Impromptunes, and how did it all get started?

Impromptunes is a simple concept: an improvised musical. The idea is simple, but the execution is challenging. We get a title from the audience at the beginning of the show, and we make it up on the spot – the audience is part of the ride. Improvised music is a big part of improvised comedy, like Theatre Sports. A lot of short-form improvised comedy has an element of improvised singing – but that was always my favourite part of the show. So I was keen to see how it would work in a one-hour long musical, and turns out it does work – which is lucky!

Does the comedy aspect then come more naturally because of the premise of the show as an improvised musical?

By its nature, improvised theatre and particularly musicals – are funny. The troupe is made of a combination of improvised medium, as well as musical theatre performers that are trained at places like WAAPA (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts) and Victorian College of the Arts, so we have a group of really talented and trained performers who are musical theatre performers. But we also have people who have real impro-chops, and have been on the impro-comedy for years and years. Together, we make a really good family of musicals. We do play for the comedy, and we just want to have the most fun as possible – and hope that the audience is doing so as well.

Is there a pattern with the musicals that your troupe comes up with? Or is it a surprise every night?

That’s my favourite thing about the show – we get a title from the audience, [and] it could be anything! We’ve had ‘vampire’, ‘little black dress’ – we never know what we are going to get. Our pianist will also improvise an overture at the beginning of the show, which will allow us to get a feel about what the show is. If we have something like ‘stake/steak’, we have to think whether this is about vampires, cows or gambling? The musicians will stamp their brand on that suggestion – are we going to go through an old-school traditional or a gothic, medieval feel? Then of course, after that the first person will go out and sing the first line of dialogue. Sometimes you get what you are hopeful for, and other times you get together to make the most of whatever it is. Musically and comedically, it is always different. Anything can happen which is what we find entertaining and so enjoyable.

Do you think you’re changing how audiences are perceiving the traditional musical? And how have your audiences responded to the show?

I think that Impromptunes appeals to people who are not your traditional musical-theatre fans. It’s so fun, and engaging – because there is element of mischief and playfulness that the audiences are really part of – and you definitely tap into a different group of people. What sets us apart from other improvised troupes, is that we are working with well-trained performers – there is a real professional standard of training and performance-talent that we are really proud of and what we really strive for.

Impromptunes will be playing Friday 28th-Saturday 29th July at the Big Theatre.

Date: 18 – 29 July (Tuesday – Saturday nights)
Location: Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Dr, Bondi Beach
Price: Free – $20

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