NEW YORK (AP) — The improv hip-hop act Freestyle Love Supreme is known for its daring, anything-can-happen live shows. So a few TV cameras and thousands of extra eyeballs don’t scare it.
The group, which creates impromptu rap songs often from single-word audience suggestions, will record its show on Thursday night and then have it broadcast to a national audience two nights later on the millennial-seeking cable TV outlet Pivot.
“What we’re trying to do is be really smart about the elements of the show that we think will translate well,” says Thomas Kail, the Tony Award-nominated director of “In the Heights” who co-created and directs the group with Anthony Veneziale.
The Freestyle Love Supreme hourlong show at Joe’s Pub in downtown Manhattan will be edited to highlight the best bits and the resulting 30-minute set will be shown beginning Saturday at 10 p.m. ET.
Group member Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer-lyricist of “In the Heights” who also co-wrote “Bring It On: The Musical,” says there’s nothing to do to prepare except have three solid meals.
“Your body will be freaking out that you will be going on a stage with no rehearsal and no idea what is about to happen,” he says. “That adrenalin rush never goes away and I hope some of that adrenalin comes through the screen.”
Their shows are thrillingly creative, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants events, in which five guys on stage weave songs out of random words and suggestions like “dishwasher” or “peanut butter.” In one bit, someone conducts a long interview onstage with an audience member about their day and then the band acts it out to music. The group likens their act to building a parachute as you jump out of a plane.
“Sometime the parachute doesn’t open and then what we create is something we call a happy accident, where sometimes the mistakes in the show – when the rhymes don’t work or we gibberish our way through what should have been an intelligible sentence – becomes the funniest moment in the show,” says member Utkarsh Ambudkar.
Despite the risks and stress, the members have shied away from preparing any material before the show by, say, composing a few funny couplets in case their mind goes blank.
“I find that it doesn’t work to plan anything because if you’re really truly in the moment, you’re not reaching for your notecards,” Miranda says. “The fun of our show is that it’s never perfect because we’re making up the rules as we go.”
On the broadcast, Miranda and Ambudkar will be joined by Veneziale, beatboxer Chris Sullivan and Broadway veteran Christopher Jackson. Musicians Bill Sherman and Arthur Lewis will help with the beats.
Veneziale, who often is tasked with taking suggestions from the audience, is used to some crazy ones, but he has learned that even the silliest won’t throw the group off.
“To be honest with you, even the asinine suggestions give shape to the rest of the audience,” he says. “It’s like jujitsu or taekwondo – you use their momentum to let them fly right out the window on their own.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits