Maura Sullivan Hill | August 23, 2017
“The show can’t go on without you,” proclaims the poster for Blank! The Musical.
Though Blank! opened at New World Stages, a theater less than half a mile from the lights of Broadway, it isn’t your typical musical — and not just because it is all improvised. It’s not even your typical improv show.
Most improv performances require some sort of audience participation: yelling out a person, place or thing to give the performers a starting point. In those situations, it’s usually the loudest person who is heard and who defines the direction of that night’s show.
But not at Blank!, billed as an unscripted, interactive piece of musical theater. Blank! uses a mobile app that allows all members of the audience to participate. It’s the democratization of improv, says show creator Michael Girts ’07MBA.
Audiences have suggested topics from online dating (featuring a song titled “Tinderella”) to gluten allergies (“Wheat is the Devil” was one of the musical numbers in that one) to boy bands (“Directing One Direction the Musical”).
Blank! had a critically acclaimed run at New World Stages in 2014, earning a rave review in The New York Times as well as attention from CNBC and tech website The Daily Dot. There was a special one-night-only performance on May 2nd at The Broadway Comedy Club in New York City, as a celebration of that day’s Tony Awards nomination announcements. And this month, Girts is taking the stage himself when Blank! is the headlining act at Florida’s Sarasota Improv Festival.
“Ultimately, this was his brainchild and the culmination of years and years of working in the improvisation and musical improvisation world,” says Mike Descoteaux, the artistic director at ImprovBoston, a nonprofit theater, and one of Girts’ collaborators on Blank! The Musical.