Grindstone Theatre started doing a musical improv show at the Varscona sometime last winter, at first every couple of weeks, and now every Friday night. But I didn’t get around to going to see one of their shows until last week, on a painfully-cold Friday night. And I had to look it up more than once to be sure, but yes, The Eleven O’Clock Number does start at 11 pm. Apparently, “eleven o’clock number” is also an expression in musical theatre for a big memorable song in the second act. So it’s a good title for a late-night musical improv show.
In the performance I saw, Katie Hudson was the on-stage host/narrator, Erik Mortimer provided musical inspiration and accompaniment on keyboards, and the improvisers were David Johnston, Jessica Watson, Mark Vetsch, Nathania Bernabe, and, I think, Brianne Jang. After singing a theme song together, they started by collecting some audience suggestions, and generating a title for their production of “Never Cold”. They then immediately launched into a catchy classical-show-tune finale scene, then jumped back in time to create the plot leading to that scene. Mostly the narrator would call for breaks and mention the setting or maybe characters for the next scene, but did not give hints as to what would happen the way the Die-Nasty narrator/director does.
The performers built an interesting set of characters, created some plot problems that started with David Johnston’s character being infertile and his wife (Brianne Jang) having a creepy boss (Mark Vetsch) while being newcomers to the cold snowy climate from Baja California (or possibly the state of California, it wasn’t clear). They then sang and acted their way through a not-too-convoluted story to a resolution, introducing a few more characters along the way. Jessica Watson’s small child character was probably my favourite, with age-appropriate reasoning, self-focus, and way of speaking. Nathania Bernabe played the small child’s mother and also had an amusing cameo as Brianne Jang’s character’s mother with an accent that I couldn’t quite place, possibly the Californian version of Brooklyn/Jewish.
The Eleven O’Clock Number plays every Friday at the Varscona Theatre, at, yes, 11 pm. It’s a good addition to the strong improv-theatre scene in Edmonton. There’s an intermission and you’re allowed to bring drinks in to the theatre (if you buy them there, of course). I think the show I saw finished a bit before 1 am. You can get tickets ahead of time at Tix on the Square until sometime early on the Friday, and then you can buy them at the door. I was also going to tell you that they’d been chosen in the Fringe venue lottery for next summer, but when I went to confirm the Fringe webpage wasn’t working. So I’ll fix this note if I’m wrong.