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Sweet Hilarity

Chicago-based improv group Baby Wants Candy takes on the musical genre and transcends it.

Baby Wants Candy, the long-running improv troupe founded in 1995 (with changing membership over the years) specializing in improvising a complete musical draws from a cast of more than 20 for its performances, typically with six or seven members at each show. The strength of their shows is dependent on the chemistry of the members present any given night, as evident at a July 1 performance at their home base of the Improv Olympic theater in Chicago.

With a promising suggestion for a title, “Newark, Newark” (as in the musical “New York, New York”), the group had a funny overall set of ideas, even if those didn’t have that much to do with Newark, N.J. (other than a few cheap chemical plant jokes). They constructed a fantastic tale of Miss Newark 1781 (played by Mary McCain), who had been banished to the sewers only to resurface with such glory that the Statue of Liberty snuffs out its torch and walks off.

This performance had a bit more meandering and scenes where the performers struggled for ideas or dialogue (when compared with the ensemble that came to New York last summer for the Del Close Marathon -- which included Peter Gwinn, Jack McBrayer and Robert Dassie). This performance is reviewed in Jester’s “Notes from the Del Close Marathon” for 2005.

While the group never accepts suggestions that are the titles of actual musicals, overall its performances tend to hit certain notes typical of musicals, like a beginning overture, plots that revolve around a naïve protagonist discovering a new world, and their life-changing experiences that build over the course of the shows to a dramatic finale.

If you aren’t a fan of musicals, you may actually like Baby Wants Candy even more because of the way they poke fun at the genre in every show they do. If you have no preference or dislike for the genre, you will still enjoy what Baby Wants Candy does for their sheer dexterity in hitting comic moments within the framework they use.



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