Theater Review: THE BEST FRIGGIN’ SONGS OF THE SECOND CITY: SING OUT! (UP Comedy Club)

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by Stephen Best on April 6, 2022

in Theater-Chicago

COMEDY SET TO A BEAT

Tina Arfaee, Cat McDonnell, Uri, Teagan Earley, Breanna Ghostone, Preston Parker

Often referred to as the crown jewel of sketch comedy, The Second City is unveiling its latest, The Best Friggin’ Songs of The Second City: Sing Out! on their UP Comedy Club stage. Over the last six decades, The Second City has cultivated a proven rich comedic history, including being the professional birthplace of icons Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. The sextet of young comedians here make working original songs into their sketch comedy a much easier fit than one might imagine. For those who are not a fan of traditional musical theater, don’t worry, songs are not shoehorned in here to advance the book. The lyrics in this brand new show often provide the heartiest giggles. I just wish there had been more. After a two-year pandemic break, everyone is desperate to laugh, myself included. I was hoping there would be more consistent and substantive material to earn those much needed chuckles.

(Front) Teagan Earley, (back) Uri, Preston Parker, Tina Arfaee, Breanna Ghostone, Cat McDonnell

The comedy club atmosphere in this historic Piper’s Alley Building in Old Town does allow a little distancing between booths, but the moment audience members checked in the night I attended, masks were gone. The patrons’ “skin to the wind” attitude was unsettling, but I was determined it would not spoil my night. Co-Directors Carisa Barreca and Carly Heffernan brought a frenzied energy to the song-centric sketch-comedy musical-improv. Like the more conventional shows, the audience made the difference. Shouting out recommendations to the cast, they mined all the laughter they could from suggested skits about a lesbian couple breaking up in a neighborhood Starbucks or a suggestive three-way with members of a Windy City sports team.

Tina Arfaee, Breanna Ghostone, (back) Teagan Earley, Preston Parker, Cat McDonnell, Uri

Tina Arfaee is most fun as an over-the-top Gay alien shooting rainbow lasers and as a frustrated housewife whose husband was consistently underperforming in the bedroom. Spoiler alert, this foreplay gag runs throughout the piece, ending with a boy-band inspired bang that earned the loudest applause of the night. In her Second City debut, Teagan Earley brought a lovely voice and earnestness to her performances, especially in a skit about best friends and roommates saying their final goodbyes. Sadly though, she was often drowned out by her castmates. The performers here consistently work without microphones and she would have benefitted greatly from a stage mother shouting “Sing Out, Louise” from the wings.

Teagan Earley, Cat McDonnell, Tina Arfaee

The strongest singer of the group, Breanna Ghostone, mined laughs, applause and pathos, particularly in a skit where she was professing the legitimate woes of being black in a white world. To counter this, Cat McDonnell balanced Ghostone’s real world issues with her own self-indulgent woes of a “Karen”, slightly inconvenienced by her condo board association and the (gasp) frozen yogurt store discontinuing her favorite peach flavor. The nerve. When SNL casting directors next come to town, McDonnell and Ghostone should be at the top of their list of talent to audition. Rounding out the cast is Preston Parker — an audience favorite the night I attended — and Uri, a strong singer whose dramatic blue eyeshadow could be seen from space.

Uri, Tina Arfaee, Breanna Ghostone

Written by “The Casts of Second City”, Sing Out would have benefitted from more bravado. Surprisingly, they almost completely sidestepped politics, normally the bread and butter of these sketch and improv shows. Chicago’s current Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, had only one critical shoutout in the show’s finale. Its not a Second City show without a parody of the gun violence plaguing the Windy City. Here, one by one, the cast was quickly and unceremoniously laid to waste with simulated shots from toy guns, the skit ending with an unironic shooter (Arfaee) maiming themselves with a clumsy shot in their own foot.

Teagan Earley, Breanna Ghostone, Cat McDonnell

When the stage went black between skits, the audience was entertained with nostalgic video clips culled from the last sixty years of musical acts who previously graced their stages. The familiar faces as welcome as the table service of food & drinks available to all. Don’t forget to generously tip your servers. The full bar and kitchen are back and open for all who attend.

Preston Parker

The Best Friggin’ Songs of The Second City: Sing Out!
Up Comedy Club, 230 W North Ave
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 4
ends on May 8, 2022
for tickets, call 312-337-3992 or visit Second City

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