A musical you’ll want to see more than once — because it’s different every night

Twice a month, players from Philly Improv Theater invent a musical on the spot. (Sam Abrams Photography)

Twice a month, players from Philly Improv Theater invent a musical on the spot. (Sam Abrams Photography)

Story Highlights

Thank You, Places
July 7 and July 21, 7 p.m. (first and third Saturdays of each month)
Philly Improv Theater, 2030 Sansom St., Philadelphia
Tickets: $12

Having performed two Saturdays a month for more than a year now, the 10 improvisers (and their piano accompanist) of “Thank You, Places” have a pretty good handle on how to make a musical.

Which is good, because they create a new one from scratch every night.

Starting with a suggestion from the audience, the performance begins with an opening musical number and an introduction to that night’s characters, all made up on the spot. From there, the plot unfolds organically — and unpredictably — through dialogue and song.

In lieu of traditional rehearsals, the performers practice what improviser Claire Halberstadt calls the “macro structure of storytelling,” what makes for good characters and a compelling narrative. The hero’s journey, the love story, the tragedy, the comedy. They practice the different song structures that might arise, from traditional verse-chorus pieces to tagline songs, duets, and group numbers.

“We know these song structures, so, when it comes time, we feel comfortable going with our gut and letting the emotion of the scene carry us to a point where you can’t talk any more, and you have to sing about it,” Halberstadt says. They practice some choreography, too.

For the audience, though, it’s a surprise every time.

“You really get to make discoveries along with the improvisers on stage and contribute to the energy of the show itself,” said Halberstadt. “It all kind of comes together in this magical way. Everybody leaves their first time saying, ‘Was that really improvised?’ ”


This article is part of a new effort recommending things to do in the Philly region. Tell us what you think.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.