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Midvale Journal

Quick Wits stages four improvised musicals to raise money for local arts

Dec 10, 2019 12:59PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Quick Wits actors pose after performing “Shopping Mall, The Musical” on Oct. 25 at the Midvale Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Midvale Arts Council)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

“Tell your friends you were among the seven people to see this show,” Bob Bedore told a small but enthusiastic audience. “This was the first and only time you’ll ever see this musical.”

Five actors and a pianist had just performed a 40-minute musical made up completely on the spot. It was the fourth such performance that took place at the Midvale Performing Arts Center between Oct. 24 and 28. The weekend of fun raised nearly $1,000 for the Midvale Arts Council.

“Nothing was scheduled at the theatre for this weekend, so I offered to do a quick fundraiser,” Bedore said. “I was able to get some actors together and they met the night before the first performance to go over structure.”

According to Bedore, most musicals follow a general format: an opening scene that sets the tone, songs to introduce the protagonist and villain, and then they collide. During that Monday performance, the hero was a simple snow shoveler whose livelihood was threatened by a snowblower tycoon named Smogsworth. 

“I really enjoyed when Michael (Haycock) made Smogsworth's snow machine attack Bob, leaving him as a singing arm and head for the remainder of the musical,” said Jason Wild, one of the performers. “Things like that happened throughout the run that we all had fun with.” 

The musical’s name, “Adventures in Shoveling Snow” and title of its hit song, “Don’t Amputate My Leg” were taken directly from the audience. Other details included in the musical were inspired by a conversation that Bedore had with the audience after the actors played some improv games to warm up. One woman mentioned a recent harrowing trip to the dentist. A man admitted to getting a traffic ticket for failure to yield. Both of those details were cleverly folded into various songs.

“I love that they incorporated the audience’s suggestions during the musical and even looked at the audience members,” said Veronica Eulenberg, a member of the audience.

All performers had prior experience in musical theatre or improv, but never both at the same time. “Quick Wits does a musical every once in a while, but it’s the last real scary improv thing,” said Bedore. “With improv it’s hard enough to keep the story going. Then you’re adding rhymes and working with the framework set by the pianist.”

Caleb Wall played piano accompaniment for all four nights. He inspired the actors by playing introductions in a variety of musical styles. “This one and Friday were really great,” Wall said. “Even in moments where you fail it’s a lot of fun.”

Wild agreed. “Throughout the musical fundraiser, my favorite moments have come at times where someone just takes an odd route, and we all just trust one another and follow where it leads.”

“This was my first time improvising a musical in front of an audience,” said Sydney Growe, a former Midvale resident. “We’ve all done stage productions before, so we’re familiar with the structure and tropes.”

For Jackson Holladay, this was his first time doing any kind of improv in front of an audience, and his manic energy was infectious. 

The other “instant musicals” were titled “Drivers Education — The Musical,” “Shopping Mall, The Musical” and “Jebediah Exits Willingly.” Bedore estimated that Saturday’s performance had the largest audience, but they didn’t get as large of crowds as they would have liked. The last- minute timing made the event challenging to promote.

“Our audiences were small, but our patrons were generous,” said Wild. “I truly wish more folks from the community had taken the opportunity to come enjoy the performances with us. Financial contributions are important and always appreciated, but personally I feel like the arts have to be at the heart of a thriving community. I speak only for myself, but I would rather have seen a few hundred folks over a few hundred dollars.”

Quick Wits performs Saturday nights at the Midvale Performing Arts Center with show times at 10 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students, seniors and military. Bedore and Wild are both performers with Quick Wits as well as members of the Midvale Arts Council Board of Directors.

“Things like getting together in community groups and laughing brings us together, which is what we need more of in our world right now,” Wild said. “I love the Arts Council for its efforts to provide opportunities to all of Midvale to do just that.”