|FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME|
Many a Broadway show has taken a long and winding road before ending up on the Main Stem – countless developmental workshops, out-of-town tryouts, even out-of-country tryouts – but it seems fitting that the utterly unique “Freestyle Love Supreme” has had perhaps the most unique journey before landing at its current home, the Booth Theatre. This unusual evening of improvisational-rap-musical comedy, devised by “Hamilton” co-creators Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail and pal Anthony Veneziale, has already been seen on various New York stages for nearly 16 years!
It’s hard to say if practice has made perfect, since the 85-minute show (directed by Kail) is different each night! First, like most “improv” shows, the evening relies almost exclusively on word suggestions and true stories from the audience, and, let’s be real, some real people are simply more interesting than others. Still, I’ll never think of elephants, clementines or the play “The Height of the Storm” in the same way again.
Secondly, the cast rotates at every performance, both in terms of its “regulars” and guest stars (who can include Miranda, as well as “Hamilton” and “Freestyle” alums Christopher Jackson and James Monroe Iglehart, both of whom appeared at my performance). It’s a formula that, on one hand, may be a little risky and, on the other hand, definitely encourages repeat visits. And even if you are aware that some nights may be home runs and others mere doubles, I imagine a strike-out must be impossible, at least given the sheer inventiveness, energy and innate talent of the performers I saw.
Veneziale (aka Two-Touch), who was the de facto host of our show, brings a sly charm and just-snarky-enough sense of humor that makes him not just hilarious but strangely likeable. Utkarsh Ambdukhar (aka UTK the INC) is a comic revelation; he’s incredibly quick on his feet (physically and metaphorically) handling everything and anything thrown at him with ease. Chris Sullivan (aka Shockwave) makes absolutely astounding sounds with his mouth, while Arthur Lewis (aka Arthur the Geniuses) proves to be both a remarkable instrumentalist and wonderful vocalist. And relative newcomer Aneesa Folds is simply a joy to watch and listen to; not only is she incredibly funny and sings like J-Hud, but she seems almost as happy to be on the stage as we are to be on the other side of it!
There is one thing you can be absolutely sure of if you go: No cell phone or smart device will distract you from the on-stage proceedings, since they must be securely placed in Yondr pouches before the show begins! And that’s a great thing, since the fast-paced, freewheeling “Freestyle Love Supreme” demands attention – in every sense of the word!
By Brian Scott Lipton
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Andrew Bancroft AKA “Jelly Donut,” Arthur Lewis AKA “Arthur The Geniuses,” Bill Sherman AKA “King Sherman,” Chris Sullivan AKA “Shockwave,” Anthony Veneziale AKA “Two-Touch,” and Utkarsh Ambudkar AKA “UTK”
222 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036