RED WING -- The Second City is a group with a name that precedes it. This improv and sketch group boasts alumni including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Keegan-Michael Key, Martin Short, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. It was thus not surprising that people packed the Sheldon Theatre when a touring group came to Red Wing on Friday.
The Sheldon Theatre sent out an email before The Second City’s show advising those with tickets to arrive half an hour before the show began to ensure that everyone got in the door, purchased a beverage if desired and found their seat in time for the opening sketch.
It took me a couple of sketches to fully enjoy the group's comedy, which was probably due more to me trying to get comfortable in my seat without disturbing my neighbors whom I didn’t know than a lack of comedy on stage. Yet, the difference between “knowing” an actor on stage and having no relationship with them (even if that relationship consists only of seeing them on a stage or a screen) is amazing. I assume that this is part of the reason why "Saturday Night Live," which features numerous Second City alumni, keeps the same cast members for a few seasons (and in Kenan Thompson’s case, 14 years) and why the further into The Second City show I got, the more I enjoyed it.
Despite being on stage for one night, not Saturday after Saturday, the six cast members of The Second City quickly introduced the crowd to their humor and onstage personalities.
All of the cast members participated in a variety of sketches, from scenes that included the entire cast improve games and sketches that required only 1-2 members. Throughout the variety of shorts the skills of each member began to appear.
Megan Hovde performed a couple of comical songs. One that received roars of laughter was about her catching a bird (played by Henrik Blix) and then dating him. The song ended with her “bird” flying into a window and falling to the ground.
As shown in the bird/boyfriend sketch, Blix is a great physical actor. From the bird to a young child who was angry that he and his friends couldn’t drink together, he mastered the craft of portraying comedy through facial expressions and body movements.
Some of the best performances Friday were by Annie Sullivan, who brilliantly played a young boy in a few of sketches. From the voice to the body movements to vocabulary, it seemed like she was replaced on stage by an prepubescent, frustrated child who liked to kick adults in the shins.
While everyone on stage was fabulous and clearly deserved to be part of the group, George Elrod quickly became the crowd favorite. The loudest that the packed house laughed was when Elrod played an air dancer (those tall balloon-type creatures that seem to dance in the wind and are often found outside of car dealerships). The sketch lasted about 30 seconds and featured one of the cast members trying to buy a car and another as a salesperson. However, despite having microphones, their dialogue was lost in the laughs at Elrod whipping in the wind.
When attending theatrical events I can usually tell the length of the show while watching it, even when it is a show that that I love. The Second City's performance, meanwhile, seemed to be only a blip of time. When intermission was announced I assumed that it was the start of a sketch and only realized that it was, somehow, actually intermission when the house lights went up and people began stretching and racing to get in line for beverages and the bathroom. Again, when the show ended, I couldn’t comprehend how the cast was already taking their final bow.
The Second City has many members and troops. If you ever have a chance to see a show, don’t pass it up. It’s guaranteed to give you a much-needed laugh.