You Will Believe: Hyprov is Great Fun!
Asad Mecci and Colin Mochrie ©Aaron Cobb
Look into my eyes. Believe what I tell you. You will see the funniest show in New York City if you go see Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis at the Daryl Roth Theater in Manhattan.
Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis is a touring show out of Canada that combines hypnosis by hypnotist Asad Mecci, and a constantly changing troupe of volunteer hypnotized improvisers, drawn from the audience at every show, under the brilliant stewardship of improv comedy icon Colin Mochrie. Mochrie is best known for his many years on the hit improv comedy TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
By themselves, hypnosis and improvisational comedy are two of the most interesting things you could go see, regardless, but put together like this, with writing assistance from Bob Martin, co-creator of “The Drowsy Chaparone,” and director Stan Zimmerman, who wrote for both “Roseanne” and “The Golden Girls,” Hyprov combines the best elements of both a hypnosis show and improvisational comedy into an evening which is a non-stop laughathon of creative confusion.
In every hypnosis show, volunteers are first induced into a state of suggestibility by the hypnotist. Rather than being asleep, as many think, hypnotized subjects are always awake, and just concentrating so intently on what they are told that they cease to be aware of anything else. When given suggestions by the hypnotist, they respond automatically from their subconscious mind without critical thinking. That’s when the entertainment happens.
Volunteers are typically first asked to recall sensory experiences, as in feeling too hot or too cold. Then, as their hypnotic state deepens, they may experience amnesia, like forgetting their own name. Finally, at the deepest level, volunteers become “artificial somnambulists,” or sleepwalkers, who see an imagined reality in their own minds.
Watching your friends hallucinate that that they have lost their belly buttons is funny enough. But Hyprov takes all that one step further. After Asad whittles twenty volunteers down to the five people who have gone the deepest into a trance and who seem the most expressive, Mochrie creates situations in which they become improvisational actors in a series of predetermined scenarios.
In the Second City improvisation tradition, improvisers begin a scene by asking for a few basic elements from the audience: An occupation, an activity, and a location, for example. Then the troupe must assemble those random elements into a cohesive story which pays off in the end.
That’s hard enough to do when surrounded on stage with talented peers who know the rules of the game, such as to always build on suggestions by saying “yes…and” instead of denying them. This often leads to absurdly funny combinations of ideas and circumstances. I saw the show twice Saturday night and each had different sets of suggestions on the same theme, which led to an equally entertaining, but entirely different conclusion.
In one skit, everyone was sent to the old West. Mochrie was a desperado on the run with his partner because they had both done a terrible crime. In the first show of the evening, that crime was jumping rope. In the second show, they were illegally playing basketball.
In another scene, Mochrie was a Sam Spade-like detective who must solve a murder in which everyone else is involved. In one performance of the detective skit, Mochrie combined the suggested activity of eating with the suggested occupation of magician, to create and solve the murder mystery of “The Magician Who Ate Too Much”. In the other performance, Mochrie had to solve the murder of a teacher who was stapled to death.
At every show, Mochrie jokes about being terrified by the challenge of this show, but exhilarated at the same time, for good reason.
The idea of combining hypnosis and scene work isn’t entirely new. Back in the 90’s, the leading British stage hypnotist, Paul McKenna, had a TV show (which you can see on YouTube) in which also put hypnotized subjects into a fictional scenario’s to see how they would respond.
But here, Mochrie not only does that, but also provides the comedic glue that holds this show together through his lighting fast improviser’s mind. In the film noir detective skit, one volunteer was assigned to create sound effects as if in a radio play, but told that they will always make the wrong sound. So when Mochrie said “suddenly a shot rang out” and the volunteer went “moo”, Mochrie retorted with “I didn’t even notice the cow!”
Some of the funniest comebacks in that skit were provided by “hyproviser” Matthew Shahlyng, who was called upon to play all the other characters in the film noir story. After the show, Mr. Shahlyng admitted to me that he was an experienced improvisational performer as well. That’s what you call “the luck of the draw.”
How good this show is at any given performance depends to a great deal on the creativity and animation of the hypnotized volunteers. In the hands of a lesser improviser, it would probably not be as successful, but with Mochrie’s endlessly inventive mind, he manages to turn even the least interesting utterances of the hypnotized subjects into great jokes.
In the first performance I saw, the witty volunteers matched Mochrie beat for beat with remarks which were comic gold. In the next show, however, a volunteer playing a jilted lover could only respond by saying “No, no, no” over and over. Mochrie finally echoed her, and he turned out what was a fundamentally boring reaction from the volunteer, into an entertaining interchange.
All during the show, Asad works alongside Mochrie, keeping the hypnotized volunteers focused and in trance. Watching these two great puppet masters at work is endlessly fascinating.
Mochrie also took advantage of the flexibility of the format at the first show of the evening, where actor Michael Urie (“Ugly Betty”) was in the audience. Mochrie called him up onstage, and interviewed him about his career. Then Mochrie asked a hypnotized audience member to create an interpretive dance, as he recounted the details he had learned. The mime show put on by that hypnotized audience member, Taylor Schon, was no less brilliantly funny than something you’d might have seen done by Jim Carey. Surprisingly, he was not a performer at all, but someone from Australia who worked in finance. As he told me afterwards, he was “running on instincts and adrenaline,” fully aware of what was happening onstage, but just “happy to go along.” That is a very typical description of the hypnotic experience.
There are other spins on hypnosis shows which are equally interesting. In my one man show as Hypno-magician “Jeffrey Powers” and The Hypno Party, which I hope to bring to NYC very soon, I use magic and mentalism to “explain”hypnotic phenomena before guiding the volunteers into hypnosis. No matter how you frame it, hypnosis is fascinating entertainment. If Vegas can support multiple hypnosis shows at any given time, why not New York City?
My only disappointment with this show was Asad’s induction style. The art of hypnosis involves the creative use of metaphor, guided imagery and certain language patterns to guide the subject into hypnosis, and effectively deepen their experience.
Asad uses commanding repetition of simple commands to drive his volunteers into hypnotic submission without employing creative hypnotic language. To a fellow hypnotist, that old school approach seems a little raw. Regardless, he gets results onstage, which is all that matters.
Hyprov is aided by mood-specific music composed by Grammy winning vocalist Rufus Wainwright, and accompanied throughout the evening by Musical Director John Hilsen, who turns music into yet another character in the show.
So if you want to see what happens when your creative imagination is unleashed, or just laugh at your friends until it hurts, go see Hyprov, running now through October 30 at the Daryl Roth Theater, 101 East 15th Street, in Manhattan.
The Marvelous Marilyn Maye Received Twelve Standing Ovations At The New York Pops
Karen Akers, Jim Caruso, Tony Danza, Jamie deRoy, Max von Essen, Melissa Errico, Bob Mackie, Susie Mosher, Sidney Myer, Josh Prince, Lee Roy Reams, Rex Reed, Randy Roberts, Mo Rocca , Mark Sendroff, Lee Roy Reams, Brenda Vaccaro and David Zippel were there to see and honor Cabaret legend and Grammy nominee Marilyn Maye. Maye who turns 95 April 10th, made her at Carnegie Hall solo debut last night with The New York Pops, led by Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke.
Maye is a highly praised singer, actress, director, arranger, educator, Grammy nominated recording artist and a musical treasure. Her entire life has been committed to the art of song and performance and it showed with the 12 standing ovations she received.
Maye appeared 76 times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, she was “discovered” by Steve Allen and had a RCA recording contract, seven albums and 34 singles.
The evening started out with the superlative New York Pops Overture of Mame, which Maye had played the title role.
Next a Cole Porter Medley with “Looking at You,” Concentrate On You,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” It’s Alright With Me,””Just One of Those Things,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “All of You”. This was Marilyn’s second standing ovation. The first was when she stood on that stage for the first time and the audience was rapturous.
A terrific “It’s Today” from Mame with high flying kicks was the third ovation and wow can that woman kick.
A rainbow medley included “Look To The Rainbow” from Finnian’s Rainbow, the iconic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the jazzy “Make Me Rainbows” and of course “The Rainbow Connection.” And with that another standing ovation.
“Put On A Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie.
Frank Loesser’s Joey, Joey, Joey brought on a fifth standing ovation. This song was a masterclass in acting and vocal nuance. For that matter every song that comes out of Ms. Maye’s mouth is perfection. Part of the brilliance of this night is her musical director, arranger, and pianist Ted Firth. That man is a genius.
Lerner and Loewe’s “On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady ended the first act with a sixth standing ovation.
The overture from Hello Dolly! and then Cabaret shows Marilyn Maye also starred in opened the second act. The New York Pops sounded phenomenal as always.
“Your Gonna Hear From Me” from “Inside Daisy Clover was an appropriate starter for this next round as the audience got to its feet.
Maye’s most requested song “Guess Who I Saw Today” from New Faces of 1952 was followed by a show stopping “Fifty Percent” from Ballroom and of course another standing ovation.
Her next song was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to be included in its permanent collection of recordings from the 20th century. Her recording of “Too Late Now” is considered by the Smithsonian to be one of the 110 Best American Compositions of the Twentieth Century and Ms. Maye showed us why and again another standing ovation.
A proclamation from The City of New York read by Steven Reineke to Marilyn Maye made this day Marilyn Maye Day. This treasure cried with joy as she sang Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.” Though she forgot some of the lyric, Ms. Maye proved performing is all on the intent and connecting to the audience. Two more standing ovations were added here.
For encores, I was thrilled to hear James Taylor’s “Circle of Life” and “Here’s To Life,” which is my personal favorite, finally going back into “It’s Today” with those high kicks and a twelfth standing ovation. Bravo Ms. Maye!
If you are a singer and do not catch Ms. Maye live, you really do not care about your craft. Last night Ms. Maye made it clear why she’s been celebrated as one of America’s greatest jazz singers for more than 50 years and this was a night I will always remember. Thank-you New York Pops.
Don’t miss the Pop’s 40th Birthday Gala: This One’s For You: The Music Of Barry Manilow on Monday, May 1st. The gala will star Sean Bell, Erich Bergen, Betty Buckley, Charo, Deborah Cox, Danny Kornfeld, Norm Lewis, Melissa Manchester, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, Billy Stritch, Steven Telsey, Max von Essen, Dionne Warwick, and more to be announced. This will be yet another New York Pop’s Night not to miss.
The Mayor of Times Square Meets One of the World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivors
I arrived to a packed lecture room at a Library in South Florida. This lecture caught my eye weeks prior and I made sure to have it in my calendar. After all, how many more times will I get a chance to hear a 99 year old survivor tell his remarkable story of inconceivable hell, survival and ultimately impressive success? What I heard in the room that day was hard to fathom it wasn’t part of a Spielberg movie with some creative liberty thrown in to embellish an already unbelievable true story. This was the real deal. A vivid description of hell on earth. What I couldn’t understand is how did this survivor go on to create a vibrant family and a very successful business career and not be bitter every day of his life? Equally remarkable is how someone his age could tell a story from 85 years ago as if it happened yesterday and with energy and charisma of someone half his age. He spoke for 45 minutes without a break. Little did anyone in the audience know that, just prior to arriving at the Library, he fell and injured himself, making his perseverance in even making it to the Library even more heroic. This is no ordinary man. I approached the stage after the lecture, patiently awaited my turn to speak with him and asked if I could interview him for my podcast. I am pretty sure he knew little to nothing of what a podcast was, but he agreed as you are about to learn why telling his story over and over is his divine mission.
Sam Ron bears personal witness to the greatest atrocity in human history. He is one of the only remaining Holocaust Survivors his age who survived four concentration camps…and a Death March. He turns 99 in July. His story is remarkable…and he himself is equally as remarkable.
Here’s what you will learn when listening to this World Exclusive interview on The Motivation Show podcast:
-Where did Sam grow up and what was life like before the Germans invaded his country
-How life changed once the Germans invaded and how long did the changes take
-Why and when did Sam and his family decide to go into hiding and where did he hide
-How did Sam end up in the Krakow Ghetto, how was it different than the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, and what took place in the Ghetto
-When did Sam first realize that the Germans were not just transporting Jews to what they disguised as labor camps, but were actually killing them.
-How many times was Sam transported in cattle cars and what was that like
-Which concentration camps was Sam in & what were they like
-What was life like in the concentration camps and why did they move Sam around to different camps
-What is a Death March, why and how did that happen and how did Sam survive it
-What lessons should listeners take away from Sam’s experience
-What does Never Again mean to Sam and why is it so important for him to share this and other Holocaust lessons
You can listen to this interview on any podcast listening app or use this Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3KBPe9jhTdYw1iA9UN7UiK WARNING: This interview is GUARANTEED to move you to tears!!!
The Olivier Awards Return
Celebrate the very best in British theatre in a star-studded evening as the Olivier Awards return to the Royal Albert Hall on April 2nd.
Three-time Olivier Award nominee & Primetime Emmy winner, Hannah Waddingham will be hosting the awards for the first time.
The event will feature performances from all of the Best New Musical nominees, including The Band’s Visit, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Sylvia and Tammy Faye. Also performing will be Oklahoma! and Sister Act, both nominated for the Best Musical Revival award, as well as Disney’s Newsies, which has been nominated for Matt Cole’s choreography.
The multi-Olivier Award winner The Book of Mormon, will be performing to mark its ten-year anniversary in the West End. Additionally, special award winner Arlene Philips will be honored with a tribute from the cast of Grease.
The ceremony will be broadcast live on Magic Radio from 6pm with Ruthie Henshall and Alice Arnold hosting.
The highlights program will also be aired on ITV1 and ITVX at 10:15 pm in the UK and via Official London Theatre’s YouTube channel elsewhere.
And the nominees are:
Tech2 years ago
How to Take Advantage of Virtual Numbers for SMS
Business2 years ago
Entre Institute Review – Is Jeff Lerner’s Program a Scam?
Entertainment2 years ago
A Star is Born – Barvina Takes Entertainment World by Storm
Events3 months ago
New Year’s Eve Traditions In The US and Around The World
Film9 months ago
Elvis and The Mob Connection
Broadway2 years ago
Broadway Reopening: The Theatre Listings
Events2 years ago
The Question On Everyone’s Mind Should Be How Did The Haitians Get To Mexico
Spiritual2 years ago
The History of Numerology
Family2 years ago
Who Is Justine Ang Fonte and Why Are We Letting Her Near Children?
Broadway11 months ago
Funny Girl Makes Julie Benko a Star