Published on March 6th, 2012 | by Sharilyn Johnson0
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The Carnegie Hall Show feels like a major event on any given night. But when the popular Toronto variety show kicked off its monthly residency at its new venue on Friday night – and that venue was Second City – it was safe to expect the bar to be raised.
The highbrow-flavored (well, most of the time) Carnegie Hall Show was a staple at Bread & Circus in Kensington Market, before the venue shut down last fall. While it doesn’t have the same earthy vibe as the show’s previous home, Second City is a more fitting locale for such a class act. It’s in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District, where pedestrians dodge velvet ropes outside of nightclubs instead of racks outside of vintage clothes shops.
And the show’s new home is familiar grounds for its stars from the National Theatre of the World. Members Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram are Second City Mainstage alumni, joined by theatre veterans Chris Gibbs and Ron Pederson (Pederson was absent on this night).
With the group’s in-character banter at the top of the show, leading into an array of era-specific improv scenes, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re at a genuine vaudeville variety show (and perhaps feel a little self-conscious for wearing jeans to such a fancy affair).
A highlight on this night was the two-part improvised radio play. Gibbs, Baram, and Snieckus were joined by Chris Craddock of iconic Edmonton improv troupe Rapid Fire Theatre, and comedian and Picnicface star Mark Little, for some ridiculousness and plot twists.
To kick off the play, the audience was asked for a suggestion of an animal. One table enthusiastically offered “Narwhal”. When asked for a product, the same group yelled “bacon”.
Frequent users of the social news site Reddit would recognize the internet meme that those two words referenced. Nobody on stage – nor seemingly in the crowd – picked up on it. (Gee, it’s almost as if mega-nerds stay home on Friday nights.)
Impressive performances throughout the show from aerialist Ana Shepherd, singer Melissa D’Agostino, and the troupe of Carnegie Hall Show Dancers gave the show some changes of pace in just the right places.
The night’s surprise guest was singer Ron Sexsmith, a friend of the cast. Sexmith performed two songs, and promised the audience a new album in the fall or early next year.
The Carnegie Hall Show runs the first Friday of every month at 11 p.m. at Second City.
If you aren’t in Toronto, the National Theatre of the World does tour. And they tour in a big way: their next show is March 18 in Amsterdam at the Polanentheater, followed by dates in Oslo and Berlin.