According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fringe/Baby Wants Candy

Reviewed by Amanda Halkiotis

Baby Wants Candy uncannily lends uncompromising musical flair to improv comedy. Its seven-person ensemble takes the basic sketch-comedy framework and puts an even geekier, kitschier twist on it. What makes them stand out is their musical backup, a tightly-orchestrated, talented, toe-tapping four-piece group known as the Yes Band. But what makes this touring company worth watching is the plot of each new show, or, rather, the lack thereof.

Every night, Baby Wants Candy performs a new, never-before-seen musical inspired by an original title submitted by the audience. Whether inconceivable or imperfect, or something in between, they make it work, composing a back-story, conflict, climax, and resolution all within a compact one-hour format in which scenes don’t drag on and the topic at hand remains steady through disciplined follow-through. The Yes Band keeps up the entire time with intros, interludes, and full-fledged songs. Their self-aware, unpretentious approach also shows these guys have no problem poking fun while having fun, which means no egos, no interrupters, and no overcrowding already-determined key characters or lead roles.

It’s a real ensemble, whether they’re helping each other finish a song whose chorus has gotten repetitive or adding quick comic relief to sagging dramatic dialogue. There are no weak players, but the ones with the keenest ear for dialogue and wittiest angles for entering a scene on this particular evening were Thomas Middletich, Albert Samuels, and Eliza Skinner (who also brings her brassy, belting vocals to the stage). The teamwork here does amazing things with a bare set, no sheet music, no cues or stage directions; instead they simply start with a story title and make the rest up as they sing along.

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