Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Flight Of The Conchords (The SOB Review)

The Flight Of The Conchords (The SOB Review) - Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, MN

** (out of ****)

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I'm not one to see much in the way of television. But when I find a show that truly resonates with me, I try my best to watch it religiously.

Such is that case for one of my more recent favorite television discoveries, HBO's inspired "The Flight Of The Conchords" series that stars New Zealand's "fourth most popular folk parody duo" Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie as the eponymous band making their way in New York (the other night during their 2+ hour performance in Minneapolis, I learned that even a duo can be called a band -- after all, even a solitary person can be a "one-man band").

Like a great Gotham musical, each half hour episode offers a perfect blend of comedy that ingeniously segues into Jermaine and/or Bret breaking into song. Their ironic sense of humor and timing is captured in a truly brilliant and entertaining fashion.

What made the show even more appealing to a theatregoer like me was that it offered my first real opportunity to see Broadway actress Sutton Foster perform (until Young Frankenstein, I had been zero for three in my repeated attempts to see her on the Great White Way) -- and as Coko, Foster offers an egalitarian performance sans any trace of glamor that you'd swear she checked her ego at the door. I've also enjoyed the FOTC's superfan Mel (Kristen Schaal, now a regular on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), who singlehandedly underscores how at its etymological root, "fan" was most definitely derived from "fanatic."

Oh that seeing this dimeric duo in person would take me away. Instead, I learned that these latter-day not-ready-for-primetime-players' material is much better suited toward television.

Instead of soaring, The Flight Of The Conchords actually came perilously close to crashing and burning during their gig that mixed their satirical set of songs with often labored interstitial comedy bits. In fact, at one point, Brit even said, "I think we've been derailed" when they virtually lost control of their show to a considerable slice of the audience. Much to my horror and chagrin, somehow, members of the crowd began to think they were part of the performance. Instead of ignoring the obnoxious and even belligerent cat calls, the duo's improvised response only seemed to encourage more of the same.

Yes, some of their reactions were indeed funny, particularly after one female fan yelled, "I want to marry you" to which Jermaine and Brit mused about the potential for marrying the entire audience. However, they had tremendous difficulty getting back on track. It didn't help matters that the duo kept dropping almost everything from their set list to musical instruments, as well as Brit knocking over his microphone into the front-row. The unfortunate effect was that they seemed ill-prepared to cope with this Minneapolis mob. And make no mistake, that's exactly what The Flight Of The Conchords were dealing with.

Fortunately, the musical highlights helped to quiet the crowd a bit. Inspired tunes like "The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room," "Business Time," "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros," "Inner City Pressure," and their tribute to David Bowie were all included in their set. As an added bonus, they managed to come back to the stage for an encore consisting of three tunes -- that, despite Bret's repeated notice that they were running out of time thanks to the audience's ridiculously rude antics.

I'm not sure how audiences throughout the rest of the United States will respond to The Flight Of The Conchords, but I can only hope they'll at least allow the duo they came to see get their act off the ground.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here to see a list of upcoming performance dates.

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At 15 May, 2008, Blogger Gil said...

Funny you say that, the audience here in NYC at Town Hall was pretty rowdy too. It didn't sound anywhere as bad as the one you saw... except for the very end, where (because the two had taken a request earlier in the show) everybody started shouting out requests and bringing the final 10-15 minutes to a stop...

At 15 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Gil, In Minneapolis, which I might add the duo pronounced correctly (although Jermaine at one point did admit that he thought it might be "MinneaNapolis." Unfortunately, they lost control about 1/3 of the way into their performance.


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