Joking. Singing. Drinking.

VAMP is a new improvised musical comedy show playing on Thursday nights at 10:00pm at MCL Chicago (formerly Studio BE). It  just opened on July 31st and is playing through the end of September. VAMP is a fun, laid-back and interactive show, featuring a slightly different cast each week and is definitely not to be missed.

VAMP was created by and features music improvisers Keenan Camp and Brandon C. Price, and the show allows them to join some of their favorite performers in Chicago for games and drinking and laughter. This past week, Price hosted and moderated the show and Camp joined MCL regulars Jeff Bouthiette and Tiffani Swalley (both players from Improvised Sondheim Project) and Courtney Fontaine (MINt: Music Improv Night). With the help of musical director Ryan Miera, the five put together a night of singing and drinking and laughing.
So how does VAMP differ from some of the other music improv shows in Chicago? First and foremost, it’s a show of short form improv games. Drawing on inspiration from existing improv games as well as making up some of their own, Camp and Price have generated dozens of games to bring to the show each week.

Some games certainly stand out more than others. “MINt Gauntlet” plays like “Foursquare” (or “Shift Left”) — a short form improv game that demands its participants switch scenes at the will of a host or moderator. The only difference in “MINt Gauntlet” was that Fontaine (the resident MINtprovisor) was required to be in each scene. The other players rotated around and she was required to stay put, changing characters and styles and songs at the whim of Price.

The game that became a clear audience favorite was “Dubstep Up To The Streets 2,” a game that required all four players to perform interpretative object work to dubstep music. One hasn’t experienced mopping object work until it’s set to particularly awful dubstep. The game is fun — upbeat, music, with a little bit of audience participation. Although Bouthiette was declared the winner of this particular round, Swalley was also a clear frontrunner. It’s easy to imagine this game becoming a staple in each individual VAMP performance.

VAMP also sets itself apart in general atmosphere. Given its short form nature, there’s room in between games for the performers to banter and chat with each other. Natural rivalries and inside jokes pop up throughout the night and it gives the show a casual, laidback vibe. Although all five players know each other well enough, the real chemistry is between Camp and Price, who simultaneously amuse and aggravate each other throughout the night.

On the whole, watching VAMP feels like watching a group of jazz performers riffing and drinking and when the time comes, really performing their hearts out. Given the nature of its shifting cast (and shifting hosts), VAMP is a show worth seeing more than once, perhaps even several times, and before you know it, it feels like being a regular at a hidden cabaret in the city.


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posted on by Fran Hoepfner posted in Chatter, Reviews

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