Welcome to this months theme of the month – all about the world of Music Box the improvised musical. Throughout the month we are going behind the scenes of one of London’s elite music improv troupes. For the first part of my interview, I sat down with current member Lisa Lynn and one of the groups founders Steve Roe to find out all about the beginnings of the troupe.
Hello guys! Can you tell us a little bit about the improv team Music Box?
Lisa Lynn, joined 2017, Actor/Singer/Teacher, 3 years Improvising
Octavia Gilmore, joined 2018, Actor, 2 years improvising
Rory Vieyra (Current AD), joined 2013, Sales Manager, 8 years Improvising
Rachel Lyons, joined 2012, facilitator/coach, 8 years Improvising
Lewis Harrison-Barker, joined 2013, University Lecturer, 11 years improvising
Ben Tailor-Hamblin, joined 2012, 9+ years Improvising
Greg Birks joined 2016, Actor/Director/Producer, 3 years Improvising
Andrew Gentilli, joined 2012, Illustrator, improvising for what feels like forever!
Tom Hodge – MD
Suki Webster is now our ‘go to’ guest.
Steve Roe continues to guest along side running HOOPLA and being a Dad!
How did you guys form?
We were formed in 2009 by Becca Gibson, also known as Becca Marriott. (She has since gone on to be a professional opera singer!) Also in the original cast were Georgina Roe, James Witt, Chris Mead, Geoff Marshall, Steve Roe, Jonathan Bishops, Maria Peters, Jules Munns and more.
They all met at Hoopla workshops originally. They were doing hoopla together once a week. Then went on to perform together at Hoopla’s first show venue in Balham in 2010, and then performed together at Hoopla’s first Edinburgh show.
While at Edinburgh some of them started trying out longer form improvised musicals without a director on stage, inspired by a group called ‘One Night Stand’. So when Edinburgh finished they started rehearsing together and then performing at Hoopla once a month (as we do now!).
Weirdly enough our first rehearsal venue was the O2 arena (as Maria’s girlfriend at the time was the manager so would let us in when there was no show to rehearse).
None of the original cast are left in the show now, but what ‘warms Steve Roe’s cockles’ (his words) is that the current cast capture the spirit of the original show so well: It’s adventurous, passionate, funny, raucous!
We count our Birthday from that first Hoopla performance, which was 2010, so look out for EPIC: ‘Decade of MusicBox’ Birthday Celebrations next year!
How did you come up with the name Music Box?
Unfortunately no interesting story about the name. We just wrote a bunch of names down and picked one. But Becca and Steve designed the recognisable costume (Red, White and Blue). The idea was it looks a bit Disney, which would be a nice juxtaposition with the sometimes rude content! The original idea was the set colour scheme, but people then adjust style to exaggerate their personalities; the current cast do this more than ever!
What style of Improv do you do?
Brave narrative and relationship based long form with no on-stage director; that enjoys ‘crazy town’, innuendo and whacky characters; but tries to find the heart in every alien, cat or organ etc that we play!
What will make you different to other musical improv shows out there?
The commoraderie. Our Chemistry on stage is excellent as we are all just there to have fun! Plus we all know each others strengths (eg Andrew’s character improv, Greg’s solos, Lisa’s harmonies etc) so we pimp eachother regularly, sometimes for beautiful musical moments, sometimes just for banter! (Ben and Rory’s Father Son ‘Yodelling dance duet’ pimped by regular guest Suki Webster at The Miller 2018 was legendary!)
We are often slightly naughtier than other improv musicals too – mainly on account of the casts filthy minds! We’re certainly not a shy group, but we walk the line of controversy well – all in the name of comedy! We are the only group I know who take literally ANY location or accent suggested.
What other improv groups are you a fan of and why?
Showstoppers – for their work ethic, achievements and paving the way in the UK!
NorthCoast for their joy, power poses and Hamilton style bars.
BabyWantsCandy – for their ideas, Broadway style songs, and banterous daring (the last Edinburgh BWC show Octavia and Lisa watched, improvisers swapped with band members and continued the show in hilarious fashion!)
Our members span many groups: Acaprov, Multiverse, Dream Weaver Quartet, Impromptu Shakespeare, Whose Mind is it Anyway, Glitch, The Inflatables, Beings, Story Kitchen and Story bag! Sometimes with several MusicBoxers (past and present) in each group!
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe?
DO IT! You’ll learn along the way! Ask HOOPLA for help, they’re AWESOME!
If people want to find out more about you where can they find you on social media?
@MusicBoxImprov on Insta, Twitter and FB. We are soon to be on Linked In for Corporate gigs (That’s right we offer team building work shops and memorable Christmas Parties!)
And of course our website: http://www.musicboximprov.com
More this time next week…