The New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts was brimming with laughter on a soggy Saturday eveningwhen “Lyrics & Laughter: An Evening of Comedy & Song” played in one of the small downstairs theaters at the school. The performance at the venue, tucked next to L & E Jewelry on Bloomfield Avenue, was divided into two parts: the first half consisted of three stage singers, while the second half was taken over by the comedy improvisational troupe “On the Spot.”
The first entertainer Nicole Corrisu was accompanied by partner Sean Ferguson. The pair performed three songs with Corrisu bantering about their working relationship and their time as duo. This repartee led seamlessly into “Schroeder” from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, one of the more delightful songs of the evening. Corrisu called the show “fun” and said “[it was] a nice intimate little setting with a responsive audience.”
Staci Beth-Block presented a change of pace for the show. Her songs were more somber and melancholy. However, her third number, “Maybe This Time” from the musical Cabaret, gave the show a nice rumble to bring up the pace again.
Makenzie Caine closed the musical portion of the program, starting with “Spark of Creation” from Children of Eden and closing with “Heavenly Day” by Patti Griffin. With a guitarist backing her, she was most comfortable and confident in the last performance.
“On the Spot” then took the stage and the comedy roared in. These pros, with director Ted Wrigley playing ringmaster, made the audience feel like they were at a live taping of the television program Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Game after game had the improv troupe coming up with scenarios right in front of the audience. The ideas were culled from a short questionnaire with questions like, “What’s an odd occupation?”
“I thought the performance was excellent basically because of all the great suggestions from the crowd," said Rich McDonald, a performer and stand-up comedian. "With improv, the suggestions make the show and we had so many good ones that it’s easy. The crowd pretty much dictates how funny the show’s going to be."
Sakinah Hofler, who provided some of the more risqué moments of the night, added, “We feed off the audience, so it was great energy and a great vibe.”
But of course, improv comedy has its highs and lows (which are cut from taped shows) so the skits can be hit-or-miss. Luckily, most of the sketches on Saturday were hits.
Wrigley agreed that the performance went well.
“This is the first time we tried ‘Moving People’, where we get people from the audience in … I thought that went quite well for the first time having done it," he said. "You never know how something’s going to go for the first time. But I thought that went well. Overall, I thought they did a very good job.”