Ghost Jail: The Next Generation

Ghost Jail Theatre, an improvisational theatre company whose practice of combining impromptu monologue writing with conventional improvised scenes, all on variations of a theme, became a novel addition to Toronto’s Improv community two years ago. Now, in the interest of spreading the form across the country, many of the beloved (and ridiculously talented) improvisers who made up the core cast of Ghost Jail Theatre for two Seasons have dispersed from Toronto in pursuit of what I can only assume is world domination.
So, Ghost Jail Theatre in Toronto has a brand-new core cast of improvisers this year led by the unconquerable Kayla Lorette and the dexterous Tim Daugulis and including Andrea Del Campo, Oliver Gergiou, Steph Kaliner, Jess Grant, and Robbie Beniuk. I had the opportunity to attend a special Preview of Ghost Jail and their Season III cast at the Bread and Circus last evening. The ever-adorable Kayla Lorette, who could make your heart smile if hearts could smile, hosted the evening which included performances by the Improv trio Falcon Powder and a wide array of musical guests.
Let’s start with Falcon Powder. Kurt Smeaton, Jim Annan and Scott Montgomery are extraordinary improvisers and their Improv form is fantastically sophisticated. They allow the audience to offer some suggestions for their theme for the evening. Last night for example, the audience was told to look at one of the paintings on the wall of the Bread and Circus and to give them suggestions as to his occupation. They then asked us to look at another painting, of a man raising his bottle merrily in the air, and asked to what he was toasting. From there, with “dentist” and “the successful felling of a tree” Falcon Powder formed the foundation of their show. The format of Falcon Powder is similar to the improvised scenes in Ghost Jail, except that in larger Improv companies, members come from offstage to begin a fresh scene. With three improvisers in Falcon Powder, the scenes morph quickly into one another and it becomes a testament to the proficiency of these performers that they are able to continually adjust to who they are, where they are and what their relationships to the other characters are in such a seamless manner. Three stories emerge, and then all connect to one another in a series of strange, hilarious ways. All three improvisers are brilliant storytellers, with a wide array of vocal ability and impeccable comic timing. It is magical to watch them.
I was pleased to see so much musical talent at the Ghost Jail show, especially some musical theatre performers, including some Jason Robert Brown. The integration of Cabaret-style music and Improv seems to have been sparked by The Carnegie Hall Show, which is usually at the Bread and Circus on Wednesday nights at 9 o’clock. It is an improvised variety show featuring the talents of Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram, Ron Pederson and is presented by their company, The National Theatre of the World. I really appreciate the combination of these two art forms and I hope it encourages those who attend Improv to check out some of Toronto’s Cabaret and musical theatre performances, as well as encourages those in Toronto’s musical theatre community to check out the brilliant Improv this city has to offer. There was a particularly phenomenal performance by a singer/songwriter named Scott, who sang a cover of “I’m Like A Bird” by Nelly Furtado that rocked the house. I wanted to run up to him afterwards and yell, “Who the Hell ARE you!?” at him and shake his shoulders, I was so impressed and jubilant, but sometimes it scares people when I do that…
The new Ghost Jail core cast performed together in their very first Ghost Jail show, and although they are not yet as seamless and psychic with one another as the Ghost Jail Cast of Season II, they are all strong improvisers with shrewd comic instincts and I am sure with time and practice, they will cement their technique and calm their nerves and emerge as a successful, dynamic successor to our beloved Ghost Jail founders.
Season III for Ghost Jail Theatre kick-starts on Sunday October 18th at 7:30pm at Clinton’s Tavern. They do comedy there. Seriously.

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