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“This is a very different musical improv show,” director and performer David Dritsas told me when we sat down to talk about Off the Record: The Musical Improvised Documentary. The show comes to the Philly stage every Friday in May starting May 5, and Dritsas claims, “I don’t think Philly’s ever seen anything like it.”
Drum of a different beat
Fellow director, improviser, and musician pauli reese had the idea of creating an onstage improvisational mockumentary reminiscent of VH1’s Behind the Music with Spinal Tap sensibilities. They went to Dritsas to ask if he would be willing to collaborate on creating a show that would combine elements of theater, music, and improv. Reese told Dritsas they wanted to create a show that brought an improv twist to the familiar tropes of music culture and documentary filmmaking. Dritsas was all-in, and Off the Record was born.
Even though Off the Record is entirely fictional, the show will present like a retrospective documentary. Expect to see the familiar story of a band’s rise to stardom and the inevitable fall into obscurity. That familiar story comes with a made-up band.
If you’re wondering about the type of music, reese says “We're pretty cross-genre. The lovely thing about having a full band is you can do lots of things, and we have leaned into whatever genres each of the individual singers are really strong with. Jasmine Jiang has a phenomenal alto diva voice, so tends to do a lot of really awesome R&B, Adele-like, crooner, rockstar vocalist stuff. Alex Levitt can do … god, I don't know that there's a genre that I've put in front of Alex that he can't do well. David is our tenor, and does these incredible dad-rock things that I absolutely love. Bree Klauser is a multi-genre hyphenate, and does all the pop star singer-songwriter stuff. We are so lucky that our cast can do all these beautiful, timeless genres.”
Comprised of musicians who improvise and improvisers who are also musicians, the cast and band are as versatile and multifaceted as they are playful and experimental.
The actors Dritsas, Jiang, Klauser, and Levitt feed off the band members reese, Peter Kochanek, and Tom England, and the band feeds off the actors. In fact, according to Dritsas, “You might see some appearances by the band, in supporting roles of some kind.”
Off the Record hopes to surprise with its improvisational performances of number-one singles, deep cuts, and B-sides—each played live and unique to every show. The performers will be taking genre suggestions, so be sure to be on time and ready with your requests. Reese promises, “It's gonna be a damn fine piece of theater all four nights that just happens to be improvised.”
What, When, Where
Off the Record: The Musical Improvised Documentary. Presented by CSz Philly. $15-$20. May 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2023, at 8pm, at CSz Philadelphia, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia. (484) 450-8089 or www.comedysportzphilly.com.
CSz Philadelphia is a wheelchair-accessible venue.
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