Fringe 2017 – Hicksbiz.com – The 11 O’Clock Number! The Improvised Musical  – Review by GRAHAM HICKS 4.5 of 5 stars

The 11 O'Clock Number! The Improvised Musical

Grindstone Theatre

Venue 16, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Sanctuary Stage
10037 84 Ave.

Thurs. Aug. 17 – 10:15 p.m
Fri. Aug. 18 – 6:30 p.m.
Sat. Aug. 19 – 9:45 p.m.
Mon. Aug. 21 – 5:15 p.m.
Tues. Aug. 22 – 9:45 p.m.
Wed. Aug. 23 – 5 p.m.
Thurs. Aug. 24 – 6 p.m.
Sat. Aug. 26 – 9:45 p.m.
Sun. Aug. 27 – 3:30 p.m.

Duration: 60 minutes

4.5 of 5 stars

Move over, Rapid Fire, Die-Nasty, Gordon’s Big Bald Head, Atomic Improv ….  There’s a new kid in town!

Actually not so new:  Grindstone Theatre has been around for some five years, but with this Fringe is emerging from the underground into much wider recognition.

Here’s the rub.

Not only is this Edmonton ensemble really good at stage improvisation … they do musical improv!  

At the Fringe, it’s a ONE HOUR musical, based on suggestions from the audience, with four-part harmonies, full lyrics, complicated plots … MADE UP ON THE SPOT!!!

Come the audience came character names – Jericho (Jerry), attending with his pal and cousin Ophelia. Jerry is a server at  the IHOP pancake shop. An alternative career shouted out: Dermatologist.

Here’s the plot that evolved on the spot with the four Grindstone actors in this year’s Fringe show – Founder Byron Martin, Rachel Kent, Dallas Friesen and Paige Knickle, plus improv pianist extraordinaire Vicky Berg.

Jericho (Friesen) is a proud server at a new IHOP, even prouder become the elderly Mr. IHOP (Martin) himself has come from far away to open his billionth IHOP, and putting more distance between IHOP and its big competitor Denny’s. (Song: IHOP puts the Hop in the Hop) For mysterious reasons, malicious IHOP manager Sally (Knickle) stays in her office.

But Mr. IHOP dies – allegedly because Jericho accidently killed him when his gluten-free pancakes weren’t gluten free.  (Song:  I Killed Mr IHOP) 

Ashamed, embarrassed, banned from all IHOPs, Jericho is forced to pursue another career, being a dermatologist, but quickly realizes he was born to serve.  (Song: You Were Born To Serve).

Led by the spirit of Mr. IHOP – who turns out to be his grandfather - Jericho returns to the IHOP and discovered the evil manager Sally was the true culprit who actually murdered Mr. IHOP – not the gluten pancakes. Why?  Because Sally is a double agent whose true allegiance is to Denny’s! 

After a showdown, Sally is captured and subdued by Jericho, put under arrest and taken away by Cora’s (Kent). Life returns to normal at IHOP with Jericho the proud new manager. (Song finale: Puttin’  the Flip Back in the Flap Jacks.)    

Now this is a plot probably stronger than half the pre-rehearsed and agonized-over shows at the Fringe. Made up on the spot! 

Plus very good songs!  Made up on the spot with plenty of eye-to-eye communication, and pianist Berg gamely working the tune with whoever is the lead voice.

Plus the whole thing was a barrel of laughs, the show never sagged, somebody always came up with some wacky line, song or plot twist to keep ‘er moving right along.

For a great laugh, and simply to admire their skills, don’t miss the 11 O’clock number.  And if you miss them at the Fringe, they perform regularly in their temporary home, the basement of Holy Trinity Anglican Church.  See grindstonetheatre.ca for upcoming dates and show times.