Ok, so we are not suddenly changing from Shakespeare plays to musicals but we are having a limited, three show run of the HILARIOUS Will Shakespeare’s ImprovMusical and we can’t wait! We caught up with show creator Alan Marriott to find out how they pull together a completely improvised show every night. 

How did the Will Shakespeare’s ImprovMusical come about?

I was rehearsing a two handed, one hour version of Shakespeare’s History plays (eight plays, five kings, two actors, one hour!) for the Vancouver Fringe Festival in 2012, when my acting partner pulled out for personal reasons. This left us with a venue booked, no show, and just over a week until Fringe was due to start! I quickly phoned the cast of my ImprovMusical show, which had been a hit at Vancouver Theatre Sports League’s Improv Centre for over a year, and suggested that we put on improvised musical but, with a difference. Since improvising a musical is one of the hardest things a theatre company can do, why not add to the challenge by making it a Shakespearean improvised musical? Everyone thought this was insane but immediately agreed! We had one week of rushed rehearsals and a brand new show was triumphantly borne from the ashes of the Histories. It really is ‘the little show that could’, and due to it’s success we remounted it for a run at Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver.

Elizabeth Bowen, Michael Robinson, Ellen Kennedy and Alan Marriott.

How was the show received at the 2012 Fringe Festival? 

The show has really struck a chord with audiences. I think it’s because we aren’t sending up Shakespeare’s work at all. All of us are huge Bard fans. I’m personally a fanatic about text and even though we are making up Elizabethan language on the spot, we have spent a great deal of time learning to improvise in iambic pentameter, learning Shakespeare’s themes, characters and writing style. The end result is a pleasing, controlled chaos that has more in common with the energy, freshness and panache of those Elizabethan strolling players than many scholarly productions of Shakespeare’s plays.  

What would you say to people who are thinking about coming to the show?

I think they’ll be surprised and delighted by how Shakespearean the show really is and how great the songs are! It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s unpredictable. And because the audience gives us suggestions, which we then incorporate into the show, they have quite a bit of influence over what happens in any given performance. The show is entirely improvised. We have no clue before we start what song is going to come out. We don’t have pre-rehearsed or pre-written lyrics, melodies, chord structures, plots or lines. The show is completely different every time we do it. We don’t even know what Shakespeare play we are using for inspiration until we spin the great ‘Wheel of Will’ (a giant wheel of fortune that has Shakespeare’s plays inscribed upon the circumference). If you like Shakespearean musicals and are getting a bit tired of Kiss Me Kate then this is the show for you! If the Bard had had the chance to meet Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, or Stephen Sondheim this is the show they would have written!   

Alan Marriott in 'rehearsal' for Bard's run of Will Shakespeare's ImprovMusical

Will Shakespeare’s ImprovMusical runs Mondays, Sept 1, 8, and 15. For tickets and details on the show including the Sept 8 pre-show beer tasting click here!

[Header image: Will Shakespeare’s ImprovMusical cast]