Watching an improv troupe at work has always conjured up visions of group figure skating—a team working as a whole yet allowing individuals moments in the spotlight. Meanwhile the viewer demands expertise in this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants genre, while perversely salivating for someone to stumble so that one might witness the company spring into action to salvage the moment.
In this current offering, created and directed by and starring Brian Lohmann as the tinted-shade-wearing master of ceremonies, Les Ability, we have a This Is Your Life tribute in song. The composer of the hour, a fairly brisk 70-minute running time, is born by way of combining someone's pet's moniker with the surname of the nearest audience member. On the night reviewed we were treated to the personal history and accompanying tunes of Kevin Henwood, which of course begs the question: Who would name his dog Kevin?
Aiding Lohmann in his trip down memory lane is a collection of oddballs, who are miraculously familiar with our absent honoree. Sporting handles such as Peanuts Tunisia, Tess Turcovic, Baron Alain DeStraange and Smokey Starr Johnson, these characters aren't fleshed out beyond mere eccentricities. But, no matter, it's the singing that counts. And for the most part Sue Peahl, Michele Spears, Mike McShane, and Gary Anthony Williams, along with Lohmann, rise to the occasion under the watchful gaze of Hirschfeld-like portraits credited to Paul Felix.
Accompanied by Tiny Talent (David Keeton doing a bang-up job on a small, onstage keyboard), this quintet fleshed out Kevin Henwood's background from troubled Vietnam vet to shoeless Broadway composer. With audience suggestions, the group concocted no fewer than 10 original songs. Topping the charts were Williams' hilarious blues turn with "Squeaky Toy", Spears' torch song "Hobnobbin' Goblin," Lohmann's and Peahl's operatic tweaking of The Scottish Play, and McShane and the men spouting native gibberish in a sendup of Hawaiian melodies.
A minor quibble with Lohmann's staging: The cast seems relegated to upstage right between numbers. Perhaps the troupe could spread out and put Mike Cernicky's spacious yet, at times, underlit set to fuller use.
"The Tiny & Les Show," presented by and at Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea, L.A. Thu. 8 p.m. Apr. 7-May 26. $12. (323) 525-0202.